Chicken Industry

Patel defends import tariff decision

One of the subjects certain to come up at the FairPlay – Farmer’s Weekly Digital Summit is Minister Patel’s decision to approve new anti-dumping duties on five poultry producing countries, but to suspend implementation of the duties for 12 months.

Patel based his decision on a belief that imposing the duties immediately might contribute to rapidly rising food price inflation. He has undertaken to review his decision if food price increases moderate in the months ahead.

The poultry industry has expressed its disappointment, saying the decision contravenes the spirit of the poultry master plan, which “specifically listed tariff measures as an important pillar to put a stop to dumping”. It said by indicating that dumping was okay, even if only for a year, the decision called into question the trust that the poultry industry had placed in the master plan process.

Izaak Breitenbach of the SA Poultry Association (SAPA) has pointed out that the issue is not fair competition from chicken imports, to which local producers have no objection, but unfair competition from illegal and dumped imports, which the government had undertaken to tackle.

The issue of trust was taken further by FairPlay founder Francois Baird. In an article in Business Day, Baird said the government was relying in the private sector to bring about economic revival, but the tariff delay had “undermined trust in due process and created uncertainty over the government’s commitment to upholding the rules”.

Speaking in parliament, Minister Patel reaffirmed recent tariff decisions and said the government would not slash tariffs across the board, as some had requested.

He saw government’s job as finding “a proper balance to ensure that we have food security and to take every reasonable step to protect jobs and assist consumers”.

The debate is far from over.