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The history and future of FairPlay

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the FairPlay movement has just published its Special Report for 2021-2022. It is full of news about our first five years in fighting predatory trade and our plans for the future.

Read more about what’s inside in below, or download the report here.

Rule of law is paramount, says our patron

FairPlay’s patron, Justice Richard Goldstone, sets the scene by recalling that he joined the FairPlay movement because he believed in the need for an organisation to fight against dumping and predatory trade. “The need remains great, not only in South Africa but globally.”

He urges government to act against practices that are damaging important industries and potentially causing the loss of many jobs.

“Dumping may not be illegal but it is unethical. It is in the interests of all South Africans that trade is conducted fairly and in accordance with local and international law,” Justice Goldstone concludes.

“In trade, as in everything else, the rule of law must prevail,”

FairPlay has helped to make dumping toxic

FairPlay founder Francois Baird notes that when FairPlay was formed in 2016, there was little public attention paid to trade dumping, which had cost thousands of jobs over two decades.

“With the help of our Expert Panel, FairPlay worked hard to focus the debate. By exposing and highlighting the damage that dumping does, and the impact of dumping on jobs, livelihoods and communities, we helped to explain why dumping is not only unacceptable, but toxic.”

FairPlay showed why tariffs and anti-dumping duties not only defended local jobs and livelihoods, but were in the interests of consumers, food safety and food security for a healthy South Africa.

“Therefore we marched with retrenched poultry industry workers and their bosses to the European Union offices in South Africa. We marched with sugar producers and black sugar farmers to the offices of the Department of Trade and Industry. We marched with trade unions to the offices of SARS against illicit trade practices.”

Baird notes that chicken and sugar, two strategic South African industries that FairPlay has supported, are not the only ones threatened by dumped imports.

“In the course of our journey we have had conversations with the milk, potato, cement and steel industries. We have been in contact with industries in other countries facing the same problem, who want our help too.

“Dumping is a scourge, locally and internationally, and it must be eradicated. Predatory trade should become a global focus in the world trade community.”

A timeline of achievements

FairPlay’s activities are set out in a five-year timeline, from 2016 to 2021.

It shows consistent themes since our anti-dumping protest march to the EU offices in Pretoria and our Social Summit in 2017. These include exposing the damage dumping does to local industries and jobs and supporting applications for anti-dumping duties to protect those jobs and industries.

When the listeriosis outbreak killed more than 200 people in 2018, we called for the establishment of a statutory food safety agency, a call which has been repeated every year since then. Also on the food safety front, we have highlighted the risks in thawing and repackaging bulk chicken imports, and the impossibility of tracing back to source chicken in packs that say in could come from any one of 11 countries on three continents. That practice was banned from September 2021.

We have also emphasised the importance of the poultry sector value chain. Nearly half of South Africa’s maize crop and most of the locally produced soya goes into feed for the poultry industry.

FairPlay has consistently supported the poultry sector master plan, signed in 2019 to stabilise and strengthen a distressed industry. It aims to create thousands of jobs in the grain and poultry industries by curbing imports and expanding local production for the domestic and export markets.

In 2022 we will support efforts to catch up on the master plan schedule, which has fallen behind largely because of Covid-19 related delays. In particular, we will be looking at a proposed new tariff structure and its impact on illegal trade, such as mis-declared or under-declared chicken imports.

Gaining local and international support

FairPlay’s work has earned us widespread support, both locally and internationally. The report features comments from Dr Ralph Nordjo, Executive Director of the African Consensus Centre in Ghana, where the poultry industry was devastated by chicken imports, and Arwil Viviers, International Trade Specialist at Namib Mills in Namibia, another country threatened by dumped and predatory chicken imports.

Locally, we have the support of Eustace Mashimbye, CEO, Proudly South African and Ivor Price, Co-founder Food for Mzansi. Both organisations have joined us in webinars on issues such as food safety, food security and child stunting, which results from the poverty and malnutrition to which dumping contributes.

Within the poultry industry, the Special Report features encouragement from the SA Poultry Association and major producers such as Astral Foods, RCL Foods, Sovereign Foods and Grain Fields Chicken.

Because of FairPlay’s focus on local jobs, we have the support of trade union organisations such as the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU), the SA Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), and the majority union in the poultry sector, the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU).

Our expert panellists weigh in on imports

Two members of our expert panel – economist Mike Schussler and agricultural economist Prof Johan Willemse – have published articles highlighting aspects of poultry imports and their impact on the local market.

Schussler examined the still-unexplained puzzles of why South Africa’s recorded chicken imports from Brazil do not always match Brazil’s recorded exports to South Africa, and why some prices from the EU seem abnormally low. Schussler says he is still waiting for straight answers to his questions.

Prof Willemse highlighted the importance of the poultry value chain. He calculated that imports in 2020 replaced chicken that would have consumed more than a million tonnes of local maize. He also noted that the benefits of cheap imports are not passed on to consumers, but instead ensure good profit margins for importers.

“The argument by meat importers that they are providing cheap meat to poor consumers has so far not been substantiated,” Prof Willemse wrote.

FairPlay looks ahead

Looking to the future, Francois Baird says the world of trade is changing, and smaller nations like South Africa have to seek new and smarter solutions to combat predatory trade.

“The solution will require more than simply reaching for the high-handed trade defence measures of a previous era. We need new thinking and higher-order solutions.”

These included a unified modern trade community, more partnerships and taking hands across borders. The new African Free Trade bloc should become a powerful voice against predatory trade and for fair play measures at the WTO and in the international community.

“Smaller trading nations should join forces in regional blocs like SADC to encourage and develop home-grown competitive solutions, supported by bigger trading nations with a conscience, based on local examples and backed up by sound research,” Baird said.

“FairPlay will therefore continue aggressively to press the case against predatory trade, globally and across industry sectors. We will continue to fight for a level playing field in international trade, so that South African industries can compete on a fair basis with imports. From cement to potatoes, more industry sectors recognise the need to stop predatory trade.

“We will continue to fight for South African jobs, and for increased local production of chicken. The FairPlay Movement is more committed than ever to fighting predatory trade and standing on the side of the people. The struggle continues,” he concluded.