Mystery increase in April chicken imports

Import rebates were implemented in the first quarter of the year to encourage an increase in chicken imports, despite local producers arguing that there was no shortage and that the rebates were unnecessary. 

Results for those first three months were mixed – despite the incentives, chicken import volumes rose and fell in various categories, particularly in February when some volumes dropped markedly.

However, in April, when no rebates applied – unless there is a belated announcement of retrospective refunds – import volumes rose for all categories for which rebates had previously been implemented.

Offal imports, the highest volume of these categories, were up 118% on a monthly basis in April. The next highest, bone-in portions, rose 15.6% from March. In the lower-volume categories, imports of chicken carcasses were up 106% and boneless cuts were 18.2% above the previous month.

Did importers order lots of chicken from Brazil and other countries because they believed the rebates would be applied for a second quarter? Or were they hit by delays at South Africa’s harbours, and consignments that would have provided a profit surge in March were not cleared before the rebates ended?

Next month’s release of import statistics for May could provide some answers.