Picture: 123RF/FORMAT35
Picture: 123RF/FORMAT35

The poultry industry says its drive to unlock new export markets is already yielding positive results with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) the latest country to permit importation of chicken products from SA.

SA’s poultry sector has shed thousands of jobs and blames its demise on cheap chicken imports from Brazil, the US and Europe. This has brought it into conflict with South African meat importers who blame the lack of competitiveness of the local poultry industry for its woes.

The poultry sector is strategically important to SA as a source of employment and agricultural production, and the state has moved to protect it from unfair competition.

Earlier this year, the government gazetted tariff increases to 62% on bone-in chicken portions while tariffs on boneless portions were raised to 42%. The South African poultry industry was pushing for an 82% tariff on both categories, up from 37% and 12% respectively.

Late in 2019, the government announced a new master plan for the industry that includes measures to boost domestic demand, the affordability of local broiler products, and access to new markets.

SA mainly exports to neighbouring countries, including Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, exports slowed from 2017 when some neighbouring countries suspended poultry imports from SA after the outbreak of avian flu in the country.

While SA has tariff-free access to Europe in accordance with existing trade agreements, it is yet to meet the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements (disease control) of the European region, rendering it unable to access the market.

The SA Poultry Association (Sapa) said on Tuesday gains have been made towards increasing exports.

“It is to the credit of [trade & industry minister Ebrahim] Patel and [agriculture minister Thoko] Didiza that South African chicken products can now be exported to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and hopefully also soon to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere,” said Sapa GM Izaak Breitenbach.

This is after the department of agriculture successfully negotiated a new export certificate, opening up the UAE for exports of poultry products.

Breitenbach said the export certificate not only harmonises the required disease-prevention measures but also the practice of compartmentalisation, and the monitoring processes that test for residues of medication used to treat or prevent disease.

Compartmentalisation is a practice that the World Organisation of Animal Health introduced to alleviate restrictions on international trade that are imposed when a disease such as avian influenza is identified in a country. It allows for the region to be divided into different “compartments”, so that specific farms or facilities declared disease free can continue to trade despite an outbreak elsewhere in the country.

“We are very excited to confirm that the first producer is already exporting product to the UAE and we anticipate market access negotiations to take place with Saudi Arabia in the near future,” Breitenbach said.

Steps are being taken to facilitate more exports to neighbouring countries in the SA Customs Union.

In terms of accessing the EU market, Breitenbach said compartmentalisation will be an important aspect of any agreement, and negotiations have begun.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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