THE empowerment consortium that acquired Afgri’s loss-making poultry division, Daybreak Farms, on Thursday said 3,000 direct jobs would be negatively affected should imports of chicken portions continue.

Daybreak’s sales and marketing director Elsin Lancer de Brito said despite some positive strides taken in the past eight months, the company still anticipated a challenging period ahead.

Last year the company unveiled a plan to open up the relatively untapped market in the townships and informal sector, creating a network of franchisees that were provided with freezers, on condition they only stocked products from Daybreak Farms.

"Daybreak’s primary concern is to protect all its employees," De Brito said on Thursday.

Poultry producers have been up in arms over the "dumping" of chicken from the US, Brazil and — more recently — the EU, saying this was having an adverse effect on jobs.

SA’s three largest poultry producers have also announced an intention to lay off staff.

Mpumalanga-based medium poultry producer Mikon Farming is also feeling the brunt of the imports, but says the industry has been under pressure for the past four years.

Mikon Farming director Geoffrey Anderson said although the new brining regulations, which came into effect in October 2016, have alleviated some of the pressure on medium-sized producers, they still have to compete against cheap imports for customers.

In April 2016, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry published amended regulations for the sale of poultry meat, and gave the industry until October start with complying.

The new regulations enforced that frozen individual portions of chicken be injected with brine to a maximum of 15% of the chicken’s weight, while for whole birds the maximum was 10%. Until then, there was no limit on brining, with the industry average having been 30%.

The new brining cap divided the poultry sector, with small and medium-sized producers welcoming the new regulations.

De Brito said the brining legislation equalised the local poultry market, resulting in all players, big and small, having an equal footing when it came to the quality of end products supplied to the consumer.

Anderson said few poultry producers complied with the brining regulations, and that some had just ignored the brine limit regulations.

Anderson conceded that most imported poultry was of good quality when it arrived in the country, but that there were still processors who thawed the imports, injected them with brine to boost the weight and appearance, and then froze them again.

He said producers still injected the poultry in the 30% region to compete against imports, while others did it out of pure greed. "Hopefully brine will be banned completely someday," he said.

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