Setting the record straight on Brazil's chicken exports
Protectionist urges motivated by commercial ambitions are offensive, coming from a partner nation
Every day millions of families of producers and workers on Brazilian farms and in agribusiness engage in efforts in the development of a healthy and safe product.
The result of these efforts is recognised worldwide: Brazil’s poultry is desired by more than 150 countries. It is the world's largest exporter of chicken meat.
Nonetheless, protectionist urges, strictly motivated by commercial ambitions, have been generating lies and slander against the Brazilian product. Such attacks are highly offensive, especially coming from a partner nation, as is SA.
This was the feeling among Brazilians when we saw lies being published in SA's news media, aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Brazilian products.
It is important to clarify the matter and give SA consumers the big picture: of the 1.8-million tons of chicken products consumed annually in SA, about 1.3-million tons come from local poultry farmers. Only about 500,000 tons come from exporters, such as Brazil and other countries.
In other words: more than 70% of SA's domestic consumption is already supplied by local producers.
These figures demonstrate that products imported from Brazil and other nations only complement local demand for protein, as is the case in most markets in the world. The local monopoly of supply would have an undeniable effect: a higher price for the SA consumer. In other words: inflation.
The consolidation of a monopoly seems to be the ultimate goal of recent accusations, in the absence of any evidence, linking imported products to health risks.
The same production lines that supply Brazil (one of the largest global consumers of chicken meat) also provide products for the world's most demanding markets, such as Japan, the EU, China and SA.
In these exchanges, Brazilian authorities and importing countries guarantee the safety of the production. In other words, in addition to being inspected by South African authorities (the same ones that inspect local products), Brazilian chicken meat is evaluated by authorities in Brazil and by the other markets to which they are exported. More than 1,000 inspections are carried out annually by importing countries, both by public officials and private entities.
Moreover, it should be clarified that Brazilian poultry producers are not dumping product that competes with local competitors. Brazil is able to maintain reasonable costs of production thanks to the solid supply of inputs and natural resources.
In the recent past the South African government launched an investigation into Brazil's exports of chicken meat. At the World Trade Organisation it has been proven that the Brazilian producers did not practice dumping and the case was dropped. Nothing has changed since.
Unlike what has been stated in several articles published in SA's news media, no country has stopped importing Brazilian products. There has never been, for example, a closure of the EU for Brazilian chicken — our European partners continue to import our products.
Actually, partners are engaging further: large importers such as South Korea and Mexico have expanded the number of licensed refrigerators. So as to keep up with the high standards demanded by our partners, internal surveillance is kept at maximum attention, which has allowed for specific problems that occurred in some plants of Brazil to be identified and dealt with without harming final consumers. Brazilian companies value transparency and adopt strict compliance programs.
Brazil's poultry industry considers food security for the SA population of paramount importance. In times when local poultry farmers were sadly hit by outbreaks of avian flu, Brazil (which is free of the disease) has prioritised supply to the SA market. This is the complementary aspect of the partnership we wish to preserve.
In a war of disinformation and protectionism, the first victim is the consumer. A request to raise tariffs from the current level of 12%-37% to up to 82% on the value of the product is currently under consideration by SA's government,
In other words, much of the imports will be rendered unfeasible by their high costs. In a market with relatively stable demand — as is the case in SA — the inevitable result will be an increase in price. We are talking about a 30% share (considering all external suppliers to SA) that could be impacted. Replacement is not immediate. There is a long and time-consuming process to re-establish the market.
Until then, a probable shortage of products could affect the gondolas. This means inflation for the population, in exchange for simple market protection.
We are partner nations. Either through Brics or bilaterally, we have a lot to build together. Isolated, everyone loses, especially SA's population.
• Turra is CEO of the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein