Chicken Industry

Local chicken farmers can feed South African consumers

The South African poultry industry has no doubt that it could meet the local demand for chicken if predatory and dumped imports are restricted or stopped.

In fact, the local poultry industry has spare production capacity because of additional investments, and demand has dropped due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

This information, from Izaak Breitenbach of the SA Poultry Association, counters repeated claims from chicken importers that imports are essential because local producers cannot produce enough chicken for the local market.

Importers say that local producers cannot meet more than 80% of local demand, and that imports have to make up the other 20%. It has become a refrain in their opposition to import restrictions, one of the objectives of the poultry master plan which importers signed and are committed to support.

Paul Matthew, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of South Africa (AMIE) has consistently fought any moves to curtail chicken imports, and has opposed the localisation policy being pursued by Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel. The policy includes poultry as one of the products where local production (and local jobs) are to be promoted to replace some imports.

“The honest truth is the local producers cannot produce enough chicken to supply the current demand in South Africa,” Matthew told the Weekend Argus. “No matter what we do, we will never be able to produce enough chicken to meet demand.”

The response from Breitenbach shows that chicken importers have once again got their facts wrong.

Breitenbach pointed out that the industry had already invested nearly 80% of the R1.5 billion committed in the master plan to expand production capacity by 9.8%.

“This capacity is standing vacant,” he said. Part of the reason for this is that demand has dropped by 12% during the coronavirus lockdowns.

That means South Africa could reduce chicken imports and feed the nation by expanding local production and creating local jobs. Which is exactly that the poultry master plan aims to achieve.

During the civil unrest in late July which closed Durban harbour, there was no food supply crisis despite warnings from importers. The local industry provided enough chicken for everybody.

Image: Tumi Mokwene, owner of Phetogo Poultry Farm.