FairPlay urges govt to rescue poultry master plan

FairPlay has written to government ministers and provincial premiers, urging them to help get the poultry master plan back on track.

The action follows the FairPlay-Farmer’s Weekly digital summit at the end of October, during which panellists identified some master plan successes, such as poultry industry investment and job creation, and many severe delays, including the lack of an export drive.

In an interview with Agribook, FairPlay founder Francois Baird said FairPlay had been a strong supporter of the master plan since it was signed in 2019, while criticising what it saw as mistakes or delays.

He regretted that the two ministers most involved with the master plan had not joined the online discussion. They are Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, and Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform. Also missing was Paul Matthew, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE).

“They were all invited. We had hoped to hear their views on the master plan and its future, and in particular what they are doing to address deficiencies and speed up implementation,” Baird said.

As far as FairPlay could tell, AMIE were uncommitted to the master plan, and had made no positive contribution to the execution of the master plan or the growth of South Africa’s poultry industry.

Minister Patel’s decision to delay for a year the imposition of anti-dumping duties against chicken imports from Brazil and four EU countries was a great disappointment. 

“It has called into question his commitment to ‘act decisively’ against dumping, as the master plan requires. Perhaps most grievously, he has destroyed trust,” Baird said.

“Following the Digital Summit, FairPlay has drawn up a list of the actions needed. 

“We have sent this to the two ministers, to chicken importers and to others such as provincial premiers, who are relevant because the poultry industry makes an important contribution to economic growth and job creation in every province. 

“We are now talking to our allies in the trade union movement about other actions to take, since the government is not listening or communicating at all.”

Baird said he had founded FairPlay as a non-profit organisation in 2016 because of the impact of dumped chicken imports on local chicken farmers and the loss of thousands of jobs.

“We have now celebrated six years of fighting against predatory trade practices such as dumping, and fighting for the jobs and livelihoods of the workers and communities impacted by dumping. We are not done yet, but we have seen progress.”

Five priority actions for SA and poultry consumers

Five urgent steps needed to address issues facing the South African poultry industry and chicken consumers were identified by FairPlay founder Francois Baird.

Baird told Agribook that the most important action would be to remove the 15% value added tax (VAT) from certain chicken pieces and on chicken feed for small-scale farmers. 
“This will immediately benefit consumers, particularly poor consumers, and will enable small poultry farmers to better compete. Scrapping VAT on certain chicken pieces would help us all to buy more local chicken and support local jobs. 
“Secondly, master plan implementation is urgent, and particularly the export drive which would be a significant boost to job creation.”
Master plan implementation included the undertaking to “act decisively” against dumped imports. This meant anti-dumping duties against Brazil and other countries, which the government has suspended for a year, should be implemented immediately, not in August next year.
“Imports should supplement local production where necessary, not push thousands of South Africans out of work, particularly not through predatory trade, as happened in other African markets,” Baird said.
“The local industry is efficient and competitive, but it cannot compete against dumped products,” Baird said.
South Africa should not relax because chicken imports had dropped in recent years. 
“This has mainly been due to the impact of the Covid pandemic, and then widespread bird flu outbreaks in the northern hemisphere. These are temporary factors. Dumping is continuing, it can increase, and it must be stopped. World trade rules are there to ensure fair trade and fair competition within the rules to which South Africa has agreed, and that is what FairPlay stands for.
“Finally, the catastrophic collapse of water, electricity and transport infrastructure must be urgently addressed to enable agriculture and business to survive. National economic and food security is on a knife edge,” Baird concluded.

Image: Northroost Hatchery