Poultry export drive underway

South Africa’s poultry export drive is taking shape, but not yet yielding significant results.

At a presentation on the state of the industry, Izaak Breitenbach of the SA Poultry Association (SAPA) detailed export plans, successes and anticipated new markets.

South Africa is already exporting chicken to all of its neighbouring countries, and small but growing volumes are going to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The next targets are Saudi Arabia and the European Union (EU).

Breitenbach said Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its supply base of chicken, as it is a net importer of chicken, mostly from Thailand. The country’s chicken demand is growing owing to a big population; however, Breitenbach says it will take time to solidify the relationship with the right customers within the country.

SAPA aims to have producers supply boneless portions to Saudi Arabia, and cooked chicken breast meat to the EU, as this region is a net importer of this product. It expects exports to the EU to build up over time.

The problem is that export accreditation can be a slow process, up to two years for regions such as the EU, Breitenbach explained.

The 2019 poultry master plan said exports comprised only 2% of South African production. It envisaged a rapid ramp up, exporting at least 3-5% of production by 2023, 7-10% by 2028 and a growing portion thereafter.

This schedule was disrupted by the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, and poultry exports have hardly increased since 2019.

In its interim results announcement this week, RCL Foods, owner of Rainbow Chicken, the country’s second largest producer, said the poultry master plan was progressing slowly, with strengthening support from government, improved labelling legislation and significant investment in capacity by the industry.

“A substantial opportunity remains in terms of exports but greater support from Government is required for the industry to access new markets,” the company said.