Astral’s difficulties reflect the problems being faced by poultry producers across the country. High feed costs and load shedding have hit small-scale farmers particularly hard because they do not have Astral’s size and balance sheet to be able to ride out the storm.
No wonder that Izaak Breitenbach of the SA Poultry Association (SAPA), despite his long-term optimism, has said that the industry is currently “in distress” and losing money. Farmers are going out of business and jobs are being lost.
Yet it is in these circumstances that chicken importers have called for a longer-term suspension of anti-dumping duties on imports from Brazil and four European Union countries. Despite the government agreeing last year that they were warranted, the duties were suspended for a year and are due to come into effect in August.
Now the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) wants that suspension extended. In a statement in which AMIE prostrated itself in praise of Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, AMIE CEO Paul Matthew urged Patel to announce a further delay in the implementation of those anti-dumping duties.
That drew a sharp rebuke from FairPlay founder Francois Baird. In a statement he said that AMIE’s advice was “misguided and self-serving (chicken importers obviously want more imports)”, and Minister Patel should ignore it.
“The poultry industry is distressed, mainly because of load shedding, but dumping continues and Minister Patel should do nothing to add to the industry’s woes,” Baird said.
In addition, Minister Patel had undertaken in the poultry master plan to act against dumping and illegal trade and the poultry industry was expecting him to implement those duties in August.
“Poultry is a strategic national industry that feeds the nation. Astral’s problems show why poultry producers need his support,” Baird stated.