Poultry master plan needs urgent attention

The poultry master plan is way behind schedule and needs urgent, high level, government attention to get it back on track. South African jobs and our country’s food security is at stake.

This is FairPlay’s message to the four government ministers most involved in implementing the 2019 master plan – those responsible for Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Health and Finance. All were reappointed in this month’s cabinet reshuffle, and all know what the master plan entails.

“There are no new ministers in these jobs, so there can be no excuse for further delays,” said FairPlay founder Francois Baird.

Baird questioned whether government ministers fully appreciated the difficulties facing the poultry industry, and the implications for food security and jobs if it contracted, or collapsed.

“A strategic national industry that feeds the nation is struggling. It has shown remarkable resilience in the face of mounting problems, but that cannot continue forever. Government support, notably through determined implementation of master plan objectives, is going to be critical for the country’s food security.”

Baird said the master plan had had some successes, but these had mostly been due to the poultry industry’s R1.5 billion investment in additional capacity. What was needed urgently was government support to increase domestic and export demand to make full use of this capacity, and a clampdown on dumped and illegal chicken imports.

“Both government and the poultry industry speak well of the master plan, but it is far from a total success. This is 2023, the year by which most of the plan’s objectives should have been achieved, but many important projects have hardly started. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic and bird flu outbreaks have helped to put us nearly two years behind schedule, and load shedding has become a serious threat. Where is the urgency, particularly from government, to speed things up again?”, he asked.

Baird said Trade and Industry minister Ebrahim Patel and Agriculture minister Thoko Didiza were signatories to the master plan and sat on the Executive Oversight Committee which monitored implementation.

“They need to convene an urgent meeting of the oversight committee to look at where the biggest delays are and what needs to be fixed the quickest. Then they need to put energy and resources into getting things done.”

Baird praised Didiza for setting up a task team to help agriculture deal with problems caused by daily power cuts, known as load shedding. But he criticised Patel for his decision to suspend anti-dumping duties against Brazil and four European Union countries, and for the delay in restructuring import tariffs to curb illegal imports.

“Both of those measures are needed urgently. The anti-dumping duties should be implemented immediately, and the recommendations on tariff restructuring should be published and implemented.”

Didiza and Health minister Joe Phaahla were both responsible for health and safety measures on chicken imports and exports. The export drive was only now getting into gear, and was confined to cooked and semi-cooked meat. The lack of state veterinary resources to certify raw meat exports, particularly to the EU, meant a lot of profitable potential was being lost.

“Poultry exports should have doubled by now, and been on the way to doubling again. Instead exports last year were slightly below 2019, when the master plan was signed. There is much to be done.”

The SA Revenue Service (SARS), responsible to combatting illegal imports and the evasion of import duties and taxes, falls under Finance minister Enoch Godongwana.

“There has been some progress here, but again not enough. We have appealed repeatedly for the removal of value added tax (VAT) from chicken portions, so far to no avail.

“The master plan is ticking along when it should be roaring ahead, to the benefit of producers, workers and the national economy.

“The government needs to focus urgently on the poultry industry, re-examine the master plan and fix what needs fixing. There is too much at stake for further delays,” Baird stated.