EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

EFF president Julius Malema has called for an immediate 50% tariff on all chicken imports to stem the demise of the domestic poultry industry.

His call, in a letter to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, comes as major chicken producers such as RCL plan retrenchments and plant closures because they are unable to compete with low priced imports of bone-in chicken portions, particularly from Europe.

The crisis has also been highlighted by the Food and Allied Workers’ Union, which has also called for urgent government intervention.

Davies approved a provisional 13.9% duty on bone-in chicken imports from Europe in December but the industry says this is hopelessly inadequate and falls far short of the 37% safeguard duty applied for from the International Trade Administration Commission.

"We call on government to treat the situation of the poultry farming as some kind of a state of emergency. Government, through the minister’s immediate and decisive intervention, must limit the import of chickens from other countries, particularly European Union and Brazil," Malema said.

He proposed that a 50% tariff hike should be underpinned by an agreement by poultry producers to stop plant closures and to introduce employee share ownership schemes to ensure employees own at least 50% of the companies.

In addition, retailers should be instructed to visibly mark the country of origin of the products on their shelves so consumers can buy locally produced chicken.

"An increase in dumping of chicken imports in SA is threatening an already frail and declining poultry farm industry and jobs of hundreds of farm workers. If government does not intervene immediately with decisive measures, we will witness the demise of the poultry industry," Malema warned.

The EFF leader also urged Davies to engage with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for financial relief for the industry and to ensure government and state-owned entities bought only locally produced chickens.

Davies has already indicated that the Department of Trade and Industry is considering designating chicken as one of the products for local procurement by government and its entities.

"We believe that there should be a comprehensive and cogent plan and trade policy to protect, not only the poultry industry, but the entire food production economy, because it is an important part of SA’s economy.

"The Ministry and Department of Trade and Industry should develop and adopt a policy framework that should guarantee SA’s food sovereignty as a matter of urgency," Malema wrote.

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