Rob Davies, left. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Rob Davies, left. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

SA must defend its chicken farmers from an influx of imported dark meat from Europe or face the collapse of the local industry, according to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

While domestic producers must become more competitive to ensure the industry’s sustainability, their efforts will be useless unless cheap imports are stemmed, Davies said on Tuesday. Since tariffs were removed five years ago under a trade agreement between Europe and SA, imports of bone-in portions, such as legs and thighs, have tripled to more than 188-million kilograms in 2016, according to the South African Poultry Association.

"The competitiveness issues are there, we have to work around those with the industry," Davies said. "But they’re not going to be solved if we just allow an influx of spare parts from around the world to come in to take over the market."

South African producers say they’re being unfairly undercut by imported bone-in portions after tariffs on chicken from Europe were removed at the start of 2012. European consumers’ preference for chicken breasts means producers have an abundance of legs, thighs and wings that they can sell cheaply in Africa.

"We definitely have distress, there’s no doubt about it," Davies said. However, after SA imposed a temporary 13.9% duty on European imports in December, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom wrote to Davies saying that SA’s "structural problems" were more to blame for the industry’s problems than competition from Europe.

Bloomberg

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