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

After 10 years in the meat and poultry industry representing importers until my retirement in 2018, it is interesting to see that the “chicken wars” with local poultry producers are still being fought.

As a non-aligned spectator, I was impressed by the case made for local poultry by Aziz Sulliman and Izaak Breitenbach (“Cutting imports will help poultry sector grow and create jobs,” January 26).

There is much truth in their opinion piece. Poultry is a large and essential part of SA agriculture and the economy as a whole.

Local manufacturers are, indeed, world-class and internationally competitive, while creating a large number of jobs in a country that desperately needs employment, growth and food security.

However, there are some holes in their piece. Reference is made to poultry imports from Germany, but these ceased more than five years ago under the strain of high anti-dumping duties. The claim that imported poultry is “often thawed, injected with brine and then resold as fresh or frozen” is pure fantasy. I did not see this once in 10 years. It makes no sense, as the biggest advantage imported poultry holds over local is that imports are almost never brined.

Local players have been threatening new anti-dumping actions for the past 18 months. If dumping does exist related to “product from many countries” then bring the actions, prove the cases, and be rewarded by the imposition of dumping duties. Time consuming, but not difficult.

There are many allusions to poor import quality and low standards. If these claims are correct, local players have a wonderful opportunity. Produce verifiable facts and the authorities, to which food safety is an essential requirement, will do the rest.

Then there is the much vaunted poultry master plan. This is heavily weighted in favour of local poultry — its main aim is the growth of the local industry and, by implication, the reduction of imports. I was quite surprised when I saw that importers had signed it, but they did, and are therefore bound by its terms. 

So full and speedy implementation is surely a weapon in the hands of local manufacturers against any import abuse.

Finally, there is definitely a place in the market for imports. They play a meaningful role in the maintenance of standards and value. However, rules and controls of fairness and high standards must be applied, if necessary. If the playing field is not level, as the authors of this mostly impressive piece claim, they must use the many tools at their disposal to ensure this prevails.

At the end of the day, the most important players are our hard-pressed consumers and vulnerable labour force. Every responsible party should ensure their interests remain paramount. The industries can work together. SA must have the highest quality at the best price possible without the implosion of jobs.

In conclusion, I would like to state that these views are my own. I am not affiliated to any business or association in the poultry industry.

David Wolpert

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