There are some delicious ironies and hidden barbs in David Wolpert’s letter about trade policy (“Feeble trade policies will deliver poor returns”, October 3).

On the face of it, Wolpert is supporting the latest tirade by Association of Meat Importers & Exporters (AMIE) CEO Paul Matthew against the localisation policy of trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel. (“Where is the dynamism in SA’s trade policy?” September 29).

Not only supporting, but “fully supporting”. The irony is that Wolpert is Matthew’s predecessor as head of AMIE, and he clearly doesn’t fully support what Matthew has done to the organisation Wolpert headed for a long time. The two have fallen out before, as Matthew didn’t like Wolpert conceding that chicken imports can damage local communities and kill local jobs. Wolpert has also conceded that chicken dumping has taken place and that there may be some manipulation of chicken produce descriptions to avoid or reduce import duties.

Now it’s payback time. On behalf of chicken importers and in step with local producers, Matthew signed the poultry master plan in 2019, which commits importers to the objectives of increasing local chicken production (including by localisation) and curtailing imports. He has since attacked both localisation and import tariffs.

Wolpert has a full swing at the industry’s master plan (“unreasonable, unfair and ultimately unworkable”), and at Matthew for signing it. He says being a signatory to a “flawed” master plan whose primary aim is to reduce your market share “is akin to turkeys voting for Christmas”.

Wolpert says pointedly that importers need to be principled and consistent. FairPlay would add ethical, because dumping is deeply unethical. Just who could Wolpert be pointing to for being unprincipled?

Francois Baird 
Founder, FairPlay

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