LETTER: Schussler’s findings on poultry imports require urgent investigation
Economist details what appear to be import category switches after the chicken leaves Brazil and before it is imported into SA, accompanied by baffling price changes
The finance and trade, industry & competition ministers, as well as the commissioner of the SA Revenue Service (Sars), need to investigate the apparent price, volume and import category changes for imported Brazilian chicken revealed in an article in Business Day by one of SA’s leading economists (“Why do Brazil’s chickens cross the ocean? To fly over SA tariffs”, June 2).
In the article Mike Schussler compared import and export figures for Brazilian chicken shipped to SA and alleges they don’t match. He detailed what appear to be import category switches after the chicken leaves Brazil and before it is imported into SA, accompanied by baffling price changes. Schussler says he is not sure what it means, but raises the possibility that the change may result in lower import tariffs. He believes the patterns that have emerged may be of interest to the tax authorities.
They should be of great interest. If large-scale tax evasion is involved — and there is no proof at this stage that this is what is happening — then it is a serious matter. The facts must be established urgently, and if there is wrongdoing, action needs to be taken against those responsible.
The investigation should concern the revenue service, and the finance ministry under which it falls. It should also involve trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel, who is directing the implementation of the poultry sector master plan, which seeks to stop unfair and illegal trade in chicken.
Sars is part of a task team formed under the master plan to look into and prevent import illegalities, including incorrect classification, under-declaration and round tripping. What Schussler has discovered should get their urgent attention.
The SA authorities need to establish that what leaves Brazil classified as one import code arrives in SA under that same code. If there’s a mistake, fix it. If the discrepancies are deliberate, then the result should be criminal prosecution.
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