Imports of chicken offal and MDM are on the line

If bird flu affects poultry imports from Brazil, it will not be only the sensitive category of bone-in portions that is affected. South Africa also imports huge quantities of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) – a paste used in the production of processed meats – and offal, and much of it comes from Brazil.

The poultry industry has been keeping a close eye on all three categories, as there could be a temptation to mislabel imports to evade high duties. Bone-in portions are subject to 62% import duties, while offal is less than half that (30%) and MDM consignments come in duty free. In 2022, imports of MDM and offal rose while bone-in volumes declined.

The three categories made up 97% of chicken imports last year. Out of an import total of 349 000 tonnes of chicken meat, MDM accounted for 189 000 tonnes, bone-in portions 91 000 tonnes and offal 68 000 tonnes.

Offal imports (chicken feet, livers, etc) have risen sharply in recent years, and went up a further 40% in January 2023.

That month, South Africa’s imports from Brazil included R195 million worth of MDM, R75 million worth of offal (most of it chicken feet) and less than R25 million worth of frozen bone-in portions.

Bird flu disruptions could see South African importers scrabbling for alternative suppliers (Thailand or Australia?) while the local industry would have an opportunity to replace some imports with locally-grown chicken.