01 February 2023
by Carin Smith
South African consumers can likely expect to pay less for frozen French fries after provisional anti-dumping duties on certain imports have lapsed. In 2021, South Africa imported nearly 24 000 tons of frozen chips, according to Business Insider. In July last year, concerns were raised about higher prices and even shortages after the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) imposed provisional anti-dumping duties of up to 181% on such imports from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.
The provisional duties were imposed for six months, pending the finalisation of an investigation by the Commission. These duties have now lapsed since the Commission did not extend them beyond the six-month period. The ITAC told News24 on Wednesday that the provisional duties were meant to ensure that the local industry is protected from alleged "injurious dumping" while the investigation is under way. Although the duties have now lapsed, the investigation continues.
Pending the outcome of the investigation, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition Ebrahim Patel may still decide to impose definitive anti-dumping duties. "The Commission is ensuring that all due processes are followed to ensure the completion of the investigation, and thereafter the Minister's decision will follow. Further developments will be communicated in due course," said ITAC.
According to Fred Hume, managing director of Hume International, a major importer of frozen food in South Africa, the news comes as a small but much-needed reprieve for the food industry.
"The relief comes during a period marred by continued global supply chain disruptions, rising animal feed costs, record high fuel prices impacting transportation costs, and increased load shedding, which may soon lead to shortages of certain local food products," he says. According to Hume, local importers can now claim refunds for any duties paid since.
"The simple fact of the matter is that while the local industry produces sufficient amounts of potatoes to meet consumer demand, the same cannot be said for the specific variant used to make French fries, and hence our reliance on imports," explains Hume.
He says imports of frozen French fries have decreased by a third since before Covid-19, largely due to the high import tariffs placed on the three major trading partners. Germany, which previously only made up around 6%, has largely stopped exporting such fries to South Africa as a result.