The move by President Cyril Ramaphosa to provide trade protection to the poultry sector and other industries as part of the government’s economic stimulus was welcomed by the FairPlay movement.
The organisation, which fights for jobs and against predatory trade practices, said these industries were worth investing in and were currently under financial pressure.
“Concerted government action against dumping and other predatory practices is what we have been fighting for all along and we are heartened at this recognition of the importance of the poultry industry as a strategic industry worth investing in,” said FairPlay founder Francois Baird.
He added that they expected the sugar industry to also receive adequate support from the government.
“Dumped imports have plunged the chicken and sugar industries into crisis and have cost thousands of jobs,” said Baird.
“The only way to promote growth is by putting an end to dumping, which is at the tipping point of causing irreversible material damage to these industries,” Baird argued.
“That will only happen if there is trade protection and a range of other measures taken by the government.”
The SA Revenue Service (Sars) revealed that imports of chicken increased in the first half of 2018, outstripping the import volumes of the previous two years.
“There is no better time for an urgent intervention, the figures are shocking if you consider that parts of the European Union have not even resumed dumping following earlier bird-flu outbreaks,” said Baird.
“Once they are cleared, the volumes dumped on our market will escalate even further, putting thousands more South African jobs at risk.”
Baird said t FairPlay had hoped that Ramaphosa’s statement would include more specific details about the plans for agriculture generally and the sugar industry specifically.
“Earlier this year President Ramaphosa publicly recognised that sugar is one of South Africa’s biggest industries and include large numbers of independent black farmers; and is one of the biggest employers in rural areas, and that it is crucial that its potential is protected”.
He said FairPlay noted that overproduction of sugar in heavily subsidised countries such as Brazil has caused a constant glut of cheap sugar in the world, which has led to most of the other 120 sugar-producing countries raising tariff and other barriers to protect local industries and local jobs.
“We need to do the same in South Africa. This is a strategic industry which contributes R14 billion a year to the GDP and employs 85 000 people directly and 350 000 others indirectly. It would be irresponsible of government to fail at protecting it.”
These sentiments were echoed by Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola who said that Ramaphosa’s commitment to employ trade measures “within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules” is to be cautiously welcomed.
“The poultry and sugar sectors need meaningful steps to defend them without undue delay,” said Masemola.
“We will scrutinise WTO rules urgently to ensure that we hold the government accountable for saving our local industries and the thousands upon thousands of local jobs that depend on them.”
Meanwhile, economist and FairPlay expert panelist Mike Schussler said that he hoped that the plan will extend help to those industries fighting unfair, subsidised imports.
“Industries ranging from chicken and steel to sugar and cement are at a disadvantage because they have to compete against imports that are heavily subsidised in their countries of origin,” he said.
“That unfair playing field has got to be levelled.”
Schussler welcomed the confirmation that the concerns of business have been heard. Although the plan did not provide much details, he said he was hopeful that more information would be announced in the medium-term budget policy (MTBP) statements.