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The need to make some chicken products VAT-free is more important and urgent than ever.

This is the word from nonprofit organisation (NPO) FairPlay, which has reiterated its call to the government to remove the 15% VAT from the chicken portions most consumed by lower-income households.

The call comes in the wake of a recent Sunday Times investigation into the state of child hunger in SA, which found that nearly 200 children under the age of five years had died from severe malnutrition in January and February.

The figures showed that KwaZulu-Natal reported 50 deaths of children under five years in January and February, the Eastern Cape 32 and Gauteng and Mpumalanga each reported 29. The other provinces made up the other 88.

“Malnutrition, particularly among children, is one of the reasons FairPlay has advocated removing VAT from some chicken portions. Malnutrition in the first two years of life is a cause of child stunting, which affects children physically and often mentally for the rest of their lives,” said FairPlay in a statement.

Its #VATfreeChicken campaign has highlighted research by the National Development Plan and the SA Child Gauge showing the importance of proper nutrition for a child’s first 1,000 days — from conception to about two years and nine months of age.

“The Sunday Times coverage shows that the need is, if anything, more desperate now. It also demonstrates the urgency of measures to restrain price increases, particularly of chicken which is the cheapest and most popular meat protein.

“Efforts by meat importers to get import tariffs scrapped are never going to work, as they would affect only a tiny portion of chicken sales while threatening thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of local jobs.

“What will work, and can be implemented easily and speedily, is for government to remove the 15% VAT from the chicken portions most consumed by lower income households.

“This applies particularly to the popular 2kg packs of individually quick frozen (IQF) mixed chicken portions.

“Chicken, especially when produced under optimal conditions, is a high quality protein, the consumption of which can enhance a household’s nutrition intake, and prevent malnutrition.

“Moreover, chicken combines well with vegetables, legumes and carbohydrates like rice, pap, samp and bread. All these foods are already exempted from VAT. Including chicken in the VAT-free basket will enhance the basket as a whole. Households will have far more meal options than before, making it possible for them to eat well and enjoy food that is nutritious and delicious on a restricted budget.”



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