Management and staff of companies such as Astral Foods, RCL FOODS, and Country Bird Holdings are lending their full support to their workers and the Food and Allied Workers Union that represents them. They are joining in a series of protest marches calling for urgent government intervention to stop the dumping of chicken imports onto the South African market that is now threatening tens of thousands of workers’ jobs, the stability of rural communities and the future of an entire indigenous South African industry that is supporting 120,000 direct and indirect employees.
According to theSouth African Poultry Association “The poultry industry is the largest single contributor to the agricultural sector in South Africa. Some 20 % of the total agricultural gross value in 2014 stemmed from poultry production and over 42 % of animal product gross value. The industry provides direct employment for over 59 000 people; indirect employment to a further 61 000 people and gives work to over 18 000 people in the related field crop industry. The poultry industry is the second largest consumer of maize; and supports many peripheral businesses as well as those downstream in the value chain. The poultry industry’s influence on the success of the South African feed industry is considerable.” Poultry industry insiders have warned that for every 10 000 tons of dumped chicken imported as many as 1 000 jobs may be lost, with as many as 6 000 jobs affected across the industry by the end of 2016. The industry might not survive in its current state for another 12 months.
Protecting South African poultry farmers and producers from unfair competition from heavily subsidized foreign farms is essential to food security. As the Brookings Institute noted in a recent paper: “Farming is the primary source of food and income for Africans and provides up to 60 percent of all jobs on the continent.” Further: “Food production in sub-Saharan Africa needs to increase by 60 percent over the next 15 years to feed a growing population”. The South African Poultry Association (SAPA) has pointed out that once the local industry has been forced to shut down, the country will be at the mercy of foreign producers who can raise prices or, if better prices are offered elsewhere, switch their sales to other markets. Chicken is the main source of protein for many South African consumers, and the industry that produces it provides a livelihood for over 130,000 workers. The potential disaster is obvious.
A recent blog posted by the World Bank acknowledges “subsidies for exporters in the developed economies leave African farmers struggling to price competitively.” South Africa needs to join other governments in Africa that are levelling the playing field by banning or restricting chicken imports to ensure domestic production thrives and workers are protected. Urgent action is required to save South African jobs by exercising accepted remedies against dumping under international trade rules.
This article was first published on www.linkedin.com on 10 December 2016