Importers denied the facts: chicken imports surged 600%

FairPlay recently highlighted a six-fold increase in bone-in chicken imports from Brazil after South Africa delayed imposing anti-dumping duties on those imports has caught the attention of chicken importers.

These trade statistics were decried as “fake news” by ChickenFacts, subsidiary and mouthpiece of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE).

ChickenFacts used Mark Twain’s famous quotation about “lies, damned lies and statistics” to accuse us of using “statistics to bolster weak arguments”.

They then went on a long detour to do exactly that, quoting 18-month volumes and averages to argue that bone-in chicken imports from Brazil are declining and could not have gone up by 600%.

Unfortunately for them, that is exactly what happened. As FairPlay stated, bone-in chicken imports from Brazil rose from 572 tonnes last August, when the anti-dumping duties should have been imposed, to 3 530 tonnes in April, the latest statistics available.

That is a six-fold increase. And, no matter how much importers try to spin the numbers, and whine about FairPlay’s “narrative of dumping”, facts are facts.

ChickenFacts accused us of picking a low import volume starting point (August last year) – and a high volume end-point (April this year) in order to make our case.

However, last August was not an arbitrary choice. That was the month when South African trade minister Ebrahim Patel decided that anti-dumping duties against Brazil were warranted, but that he would delay imposing them for a year.

We measured what happened since then, noting that Brazil is “taking full advantage of the licence to dump” given it by the South African government. Bone-in chicken imports from Brazil have risen every month for the first four months of this year, from 1 200 tonnes in January to 3 530 tonnes in April.

Yes, chicken imports have been declining for the past few years. FairPlay has said so repeatedly, most recently in the article to which ChickenFacts takes exception. But a reversal of that trend may be underway, and it looks like Brazilian poultry producers have been raising bone-in chicken volumes this year in anticipation of those delayed anti-dumping duties coming into effect in August.

There is a further reason for them to get as much chicken underway to South Africa as possible. Bird flu is spreading among Brazil’s wild birds. It has not yet reached commercial poultry flocks, but when it does the outcome is likely to be a ban on some of all of Brazilian poultry imports into South Africa.