The long road to protection for potato farmers

South African potato farmers have waited a long time for renewed protection against the unfair competition from dumped potato imports from three European Union countries.

Anti-dumping duties had been in place for five years when they expired in July 2021. They lapsed because of an error by the trade regulator, the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC). The potato industry had applied in advance for the anti-dumping duties to be renewed, but ITAC failed to complete its investigation in time.

ITAC then waited a year, to July 2022, before imposing temporary anti-dumping duties while it completed its investigation. These six-month provisional duties lapsed in January this year because ITAC once again was not ready.

Now ITAC has got its act together. It’s completed its study and forwarded its recommendations to the government. They have been approved by Minister Ebrahim Patel and gazetted this month.

Because of administrative errors, EU potato producers were free to dump their products here from July 2021 to May 2023, except for the six-month period during which provisional duties were in place.

That’s several months longer than the year South Africa gave to five poultry producing countries to dump unrestricted volumes of chicken products in its domestic market. Despite, in both cases, official investigations finding that imports were coming in at unfair prices, harming the local potato and poultry industries and threatening local jobs.