São Paulo — SA is one of the most protectionist countries in the world when it comes to poultry and has become "masters" in using anti-dumping as a method of keeping out foreign products from its market, the head of the world’s poultry organisation said on Wednesday.

The attack by International Poultry Council president James Sumner was made during a presentation at the bi-annual congress of the Brazilian Association for Animal Protein, which gathers representatives from the poultry and pork industry, government and other industry associations.

Sumner is also head of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, which was instrumental in forcing SA to accept a 65,000 tonne quota of bone-in chicken imports from the US, free of onerous tariffs, as a condition of SA’s continued participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). Brazil successfully applied to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2013 against anti-dumping measures imposed on its chicken imports by SA.

Sumner said the US and Brazil — the world’s two largest exporters of chicken meat which, together, comprise 62.4% of global chicken exports — had worked together "to address unfair trade restrictions in SA".

The domestic industry has justified its stance against chicken imports on the grounds that it is fighting against dumping and is trying to protect the local industry from unfair competition. The South African International Trade Administration Commission has been investigating whether to increase the 13.9% tariff on European bone-in chicken imports imposed in December last year in a bid to block the influx of European chicken.

Sumner told delegates that SA had become one of the most protectionist countries in the world. "They do not want competition from anywhere, whether it be from the EU or the US. They have become masters in using anti-dumping as a method of keeping out foreign products and protecting their own industry. The policies they have adopted are at complete odds with rulings of the WTO. It is very concerning."

Sumner said the US had managed "to put SA somewhat in its place" by using Agoa. "They really do not follow WTO guidelines; they write their own guidelines and this is a disservice to the South African consumers, the way they protect themselves from the rest of the world. Poultry could be much more affordable in SA where there is certainly a big poverty problem."

SA is the fifth largest importer of chicken worldwide after Japan, Hong Kong, Mexico and China. It is also the fourth largest consumer of chicken per capita in the world, even higher than India and China, though total consumption in these countries is very high.

SA is the sixth biggest export market for Brazil and the ninth biggest for the US.

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