I devoted 10 years to looking after the interests of meat and poultry importers and defending them against a number of regular tariff increases and other trade duty applications. I did this as I believed, as I still do, that imports are an essential part of a healthy economy and protectionist measures are a double-edged sword.

However, those were “normal” times, a situation that simply does not exist at the moment. There is still a role for imports in our economy, but a reduced role.

Our economy is in deep distress, with SA approaching a debt trap, worsened by the scourge of a rampant and destructive pandemic. Unemployment is out of control, with poverty reaching scary proportions. We cannot afford to sit on our hands.

One of the ways to create jobs is to reduce imports and grow our struggling manufacturing industry. This also has positive currency implications. Poultry represents one of the largest categories of agricultural imports.

Local poultry companies produce a high-quality product. The existing government-led poultry master plan, which had buy-in from both local and import poultry industries, has as its primary focus the growth of local poultry and resultant creation of jobs. By implication that means lower imports.

Full implementation is now long overdue. More jobs must be created. Steps must be taken by all interested parties to make this happen. After all, they are signatories to the master plan. Manufacturing localisation drives are essential and urgent.

David Wolpert

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