The idea was raised last October by trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel. He commissioned an investigation into the possibility of temporary rebates on import tariffs, and possibly also anti-dumping duties, to incentivise a spurt in chicken imports.
Rebates were seen as a quick fix at a time when the government expected a chicken shortage, especially during the year-end festive season, because millions of chickens has been culled due to bird flu. The country’s trade regulator, the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) was instructed to conduct an “expedited” investigation.
The emergency the government expected didn’t happen. The poultry industry implemented rapid measures, including importing millions of hatching eggs, and year-end supplies were normal. Now we’re into January, when demand and prices are lower, and bird flu outbreaks have abated. There is no shortage of chicken.
In those circumstances, it would be reasonable to expect that the government would drop the rebates idea. Local poultry producers will hope for that outcome – they do not need a new flood of subsidised imports to add to their woes.
The problem is that ITAC has not yet completed the urgent investigation it began last October.
ITAC spokesperson Thalukanyo Nangammbi told the Sunday Times that discussion of a poultry import rebate was “at an advanced stage”.
“ITAC will communicate once the commission and the two respective authorities, the DTIC and the National Treasury, have finalised the process,” Nangammbi said.
Producers will have to wait to see what ITAC recommends, and what Minister Patel does with those recommendations.