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Poultry exports need a big boost

One part of the poultry master plan that is not having great success is the export drive, which is one of the plan’s five pillars.

The master plan envisages turning South Africa from a country producing poultry primarily for domestic consumption into a significant poultry exporter. 

It notes that exports comprise only 2% of local production, but says there is room for industry expansion and job creation if the country develops substantial export markets.

“We aim to export at least 3% – 5% of production by 2023, 7% – 10% by 2028 and a growing proportion thereafter,” it states.

Unfortunately that’s not happening. Even allowing for the delays to master plan implementation caused by the coronavirus pandemic and possibly also by bird flu outbreaks, things are way behind schedule. There has been some success, such as the opening of Middle East markets for cooked meat exports, but the volumes remain small. Nearly all exports go to South Africa’s immediate neighbours.

Statistics from the SA Revenue Service show little to no growth in poultry exports since the plan was signed in November 2019 by both producers and exporters.

This bulletin noted in April that the 2021 first quarter export figures were not encouraging, and that performance has continued in the second quarter. Total poultry exports for the first six months of this year are slightly up on 2020, but below the first-half totals for 2018 and 2019. The annual total for 2020 was below every year but one since 2015. Exports are going backwards.

According to the master plan, the quick export wins were going to be cooked meat to various markets, and expanded exports of Halaal poultry meat. The longer term market opportunities include chicken breast meat to the European Union, where it will command premium prices. Unfortunately that can only happen once South Africa has set up the veterinary staff and facilities to provide the health certificates the EU requires.

Action on all of this was scheduled for early 2020. Clearly there has been little progress, even a year later. Time for government, poultry producers and meat exporters to get together in master plan executive meetings to speed things along.