FairPlay calls for SARS investigation of Australian chicken imports

FairPlay has written to the SA Revenue Service (SARS), recommending an investigation into the import prices of Australian chicken drumsticks and other frozen bone-in portions.

The letter follows an examination of the official landed import prices (FOB) produced by SARS from December 2021 to February 2022.

FairPlay founder Francois Baird advised the SARS commissioner, Mr Edward Kieswetter, that some of the import prices seemed extraordinarily low – Australian drumsticks (R8.89/kg in December) were cheaper than Australian chicken feet (R10.33/kg) which are classed as offal, and mechanically deboned meat (MDM) (R10.85/kg), a paste used to make processed meats.

Even after the 62% import tariff that applies to Australian bone-in portions, their drumsticks landed in South Africa were cheaper than the then local producer prices of around R35/kg.

This trend continued in January and February 2022, with Australian drumsticks dropping further in price, and cheaper than drumsticks from major producers such as Brazil, the United States and Spain.

Volumes are small but the issue is a big one – SARS collects revenue for the SA government on chicken imports, with tariffs a percentage of the declared price. SARS is part of a task team formed in terms of the poultry master plan to investigate and prevent any attempts to lower or evade import duties.

“I would suggest that recent import prices of Australian chicken drumsticks and thighs are worth an investigation by your task team. The issues are whether these imports have been accurately and fairly priced, and therefore whether the correct amount of import duty was paid,” Baird wrote.