Picture: 123RF/DUYBOX
Picture: 123RF/DUYBOX

Respected economist Mike Schussler made some telling points in his recent article, but omitted many other very relevant issues and also skilfully dodged a few (“Let’s call the miraculous price-shedding travelling chicken what it is: dumping,” March 18).

Up front, let’s clearly state that Schussler is not an independent commentator — he acts as adviser to an organisation that is contracted to represent local poultry in the media. Secondly, he devotes nearly his entire article to broilers and whole chicken, which form a tiny part of SA’s poultry imports. When he finally gets to chicken cuts he refers to “fillets”, which are a far cry from the bone-in chicken that forms the basis of the current round of dumping charges.

Schussler also omits to tell us that there is a huge difference in product. Local chicken’s primary income source, which equates to over 60% of sales, is individually quick-frozen mixed portions. The current case is about leg quarters, which represent somewhere around 5% of local poultry sales.

He also fails to mention that local poultry is heavily brined while imports are not, and mischievously states that SA is “not allowed to sell its chicken cuts to the EU”. This is not correct. For years local poultry made no effort to export to the EU. They were likely aware that their brined product would not be accepted. When they finally did apply they found that they could not comply with the EU’s standard veterinary certification requirements. Local veterinary officials would have confirmed that.

Schussler may well be correct that dumping is occurring, but he seems to forget the most relevant issue of all — dumping must be proven to have caused “material” injury. Material means substantial. Reading annual reports and media releases from reputable and well-run local poultry companies, they openly concede that their biggest profit destroyer over the last few years has been the huge increase in feed costs, which represents some 65% of total “live costs of producing a broiler”.

They further state that due to tough economic conditions, including Covid-199 effects, they have been unable to raise prices to offset huge margin losses. So how much has “alleged” dumped poultry really contributed to the very real hardships experienced by SA’s poultry industry? Injury? Perhaps-material? Definitely not.

Does the SA consumer really need more of trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel’s never-ending punitive tariffs? In conclusion, it was totally unnecessary to trash one of our finest journalists, Peter Bruce, who has decades of experience and  is renowned for his meticulous, detailed research.

Tony Peerie

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