LETTER: Poultry industry not up to scratch

21 Nov 2014
Business Day

IT IS with interest that I have been following the media interactions of the South African Poultry Association’s Kevin Lovell over the past few months.

In Mr Lovell’s latest letter (What does Amie do? June 28 ) I note with interest Mr Lovell’s jibe at the import fraternity. If Mr Lovell and his Association of Meat Importers and Exporters had spent a little more time on developing their industry and diversifying their business model and products, maybe the "e" for exporters could be meaningful.

In 1997, the BTT (predecessor to the International Trade Administration Commission, or Itac) granted the association a duty increase on bone-in chicken portions but recommended this be "phased down" after two years. Again, in 2004, the association approached Itac for an increase in chicken duties, which was "nominally" granted. From 2004 until now, the association has been robbing consumers with water injected into chicken.

Over the past two years, the association’s members could not inject any more water into their product and they began cannibalising each other’s markets with this watered-down chicken, so back to Itac firstly to ask for dumping duties against Brazil.

When this was not successful they turned to an application for increased duties against the whole world, excluding Europe, which is a bit more technical because there is a free trade agreement in place.

Now back to the "e" for exports. The association has preferential market access to the Southern African Development Community region, but President Robert Mugabe does not want our watery chicken for his nation. We as a trading company have been trying with little success to access local whole chicken for export to Mozambique, but have to resort to importing from Brazil (at a higher import tariff) because the local producers do not produce a product acceptable for this market.

Angola imports thousands of tons of Brazilian and other chicken a month, and does not buy from South Africa, even though the distances are much closer. The question must be asked — why? The Democratic Republic of Congo, similar to Angola, does not produce enough chicken, and rather than source from local firms they prefer to buy Brazilian, which then transits through South Africa.

Recently we had a request to export chicken to Tahiti. When we tried to plough through the regulatory process we were told "there is no agreement with Tahiti".

Maybe the association and its members should stop being inward-focused and look at becoming globally competitive and stop relying on South Africa’s consumers to fund their bad habits.