US allowed to dump more chicken in South Africa

The amount of chicken the United States is allowed to dump in South Africa has been increased again.

The allowance comes in the form of a substantial annual quota free from the anti-dumping duties that would otherwise have applied. Those anti-dumping duties (of R9.40/kg), have been in force since 2000 and they apply to imports from the US of bone-in portions such as leg quarters.

The duty-free quota was forced on South Africa by US negotiators during the finalisation in 2015 of the AGOA trade agreement between the two countries. It was added at the last minute as a make-or-break condition, and the South African poultry industry reluctantly bowed to this pressure because of the huge benefits the agreement contained for other South African industries.

As a poultry executive commented at the time, “we took one for the team”.

The quota was set at 65 000 tonnes for 2016, with annual increments. It rose to 71 290 tonnes in 2021, and has just been increased retrospectively to 71 632 tonnes for the year ending March 2023.

The quota did what US negotiators intended – it resulted in a dramatic increase in US chicken exports to South Africa. In 2015 these totalled a miserly 331 tonnes. Two years later, with the quota in force, imports from the US had soared to 69 000 tonnes, exceeding the quota. They rose further to 82 600 tonnes in 2019, again exceeding the quota.

Nearly all US imports are bone-in chicken. Volumes above the quota should be subject to the R9.40/kg anti-dumping duty, but the SA Poultry Association says it is not clear whether this happened.

Even though volumes have declined since 2018, mainly due to outbreaks of bird flu in Europe and now the United States, the quota has made the US a major contributor to South African imports of bone-in chicken portions. These are the imports that do the most damage to the domestic industry because they unfairly compete with the popular locally produced packs of individually quick frozen (IQF) chicken portions.

In 2022, the US accounted for 49.6% of South Africa’s bone-in chicken imports, and volumes have increased this year despite the spread of bird flu in the country. All of these imports are, by definition, dumped chicken – they escape penalties only because of the quota.

Small wonder that the South African poultry industry intends to oppose the continuation of the quota when the AGOA agreement comes up for renewal in 2025.