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SA poultry importers have been subjected to an avalanche of tariff-increase applications over the years. This localisation overkill and protectionism is in neither the consumer’s nor our economy’s interest. It’s apparent trade & industry minister Patel’s noble localisation ideas are unworkable.

Patel has been forced to backtrack twice and certain industries have been mortally wounded.

The constant flip-flopping of our poultry importers is confusing and damaging to their reputation. They signed the Poultry Master Plan rashly and then discovered that a main pillar was a reduction in imports, and that they couldn’t comply with their commitments. They then put themselves in a no-win situation by publicly inferring that they would withdraw from the plan.

This week they received a reprieve from Patel, who suspended implementation for 12 months — a good economic move.

A spokesperson for the importers voiced their concern for consumers. This was followed by Association of Meat Importers & Exporters (AMIE) CEO Paul Matthew’s article in Business Day ("Chips, chicken and tyres: time for a trade policy rethink?", August 1.) Yet a few months ago, this association applied for a statutory levy on meat and chicken imports.

A red-meat levy has existed for decades, with the AMIE benefitting. If the new levy is granted, who would be financing it? Those same hard-pressed consumers. The big guys are bullying the little guys, who have taken a small market share of what the local industry believes it’s entitled to.

Simultaneously, the big guys are hard hit in a difficult economic climate, and the little guys are guilty of dumping. So who can claim the moral high ground? Government should never have been involved; it should have left the situation to the market.

Sadly, the truth of the matter is that nobody really looks after the plight of SA’s poor.

Hans Friedrich, Morningside

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