Chicken Industry

Stopping all chicken imports would give local sector wings

This first appeared in Business Day. 02 October 2019.

There’s a huge flaw in the arguments presented in favour of chicken imports (“SA’s poultry producers cry fowl”, September 19). Imports are not the answer to the local supply problem. They are the cause of that problem.

Importers pretend imports are necessary to fill the gap between local supply and increasing local demand. Local producers have not invested in expansion, they wail, and therefore can only supply 70% of the market. Imports must supply the other 30%, they say.

This is a problem imports created and continue to create. The huge and widening gap between production and local consumption was caused by massive volumes of dumped and predatory chicken imports. The flood of imports, which doubled between 2010 and 2018, has stalled local production, killed thousands of SA jobs and prevented investment in expansion and job creation. This is precisely the same relentless process that brought about the elimination of the local poultry industry in Ghana and the loss of an estimated 100,000 jobs.

These predatory imports have put a strategic national industry at risk. They have added to unemployment and increased the misery of poverty-stricken rural communities where chicken production is based.

For importers to pretend otherwise is an exercise in opportunism. For them to claim that imports are a solution to the problem defies all logic. It is as far from the truth as you can get.

The solution to the problem of predatory imports is to stop those imports. This is what importers are fighting against — they have made millions out of this job-destroying trade and don’t want any decrease in their fat profit margins.

Curtailing unfair and predatory imports would allow the local chicken industry to stabilise, and then to invest, expand and create jobs providing chicken for the local and export markets. That is the real, and only, solution.