Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel shared the stage with Minister Thoko Didiza, to whom he referred as his “sister” (Didiza later referring to Patel in her remarks as her “twin”).
Principal author and custodian of the poultry sector master plan, Minister Patel was optimistic in his address, heralding the re-opening of the second shift at Hammarsdale as one of the core successes of the investments stemming from the poultry sector master plan.
Patel reflected on Rainbow’s mass retrenchments of 2017, citing it as an indicator of the larger global crisis, with the local poultry industry particularly hard-hit by continued dumping. “As a government, we had to come up with anti-dumping policies and increased tariffs to protect our local breeders.”
The master plan had made it clear that defensive trade measure like anti-dumping duties would not be enough to sustain the growth of the domestic poultry industry; that would stem from growing capacity, creating market share for new growers, and tapping the yet untapped resource of international markets.
“It is in times of triumph that we have to set higher goals and new challenges”, Patel said. “We need to create a market of exports, and secure markets in countries like China and Saudi Arabia. We are happy our intervention has yielded positive results and we now see growth in the poultry industry.”
This is just the start. It is evident that Minister Patel is not oblivious to the challenges facing South African farmers – while he noted that dumping is harming the local industry, these predatory trade practices alone were not the only threat facing farmers: regional droughts, skyrocketing input costs, and avian influenza have also wreaked havoc on the industry in recent years.
To date, the government has assisted the domestic poultry industry by levelling the playing field when it comes to fair trade and imports, but in Patel’s words, now is the time for loftier ambitions, and for realising the true potential of the poultry sector master plan.