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Picture: 123RF/ANDOR BUJDOSO
Picture: 123RF/ANDOR BUJDOSO

Paul Matthew does creative sums trying to justify vastly increased chicken imports because bird flu has partially affected local supply (“SA’s poultry producers and importers are stronger together”, November 24). 

The chicken importers he represents are licking their lips at the prospect of a temporary cancellation of tariffs to encourage more chicken imports. Matthew wants tariff rebates in place for the next year. 

He also wants a huge increase in chicken imports, basing this on what he calculates will be a huge bird flu-induced shortage between local production and domestic consumption. He puts that shortage — the gap to be filled by imports — at 847,000 tonnes next year. 

Reality check. Total chicken imports last year were 360,000 tonnes, of which 170,000 tonnes was chicken and chicken pieces, and 190,000 tonnes was mechanically deboned meat (MDM), a paste used to make processed meats that comes in duty-free. 

Matthew is looking at increasing total chicken imports 2.3 times, a fivefold increase if he’s considering chicken imports excluding MDM. He’s projecting a doubling or even quintupling of import revenues — and profits would be even higher if, as usual, importers do not pass on the huge discount rebates would give them. 

Importers have not denied making fat profits because chicken imported at low or dumped prices sells at market-related ones. Now they are hoping for even more profits on higher import volumes, with the opportunity for higher margins because of import rebates. 

This may just be propaganda to muscle government into an entirely unnecessary rebate from which only importers would benefit. Local producers say supply and demand will be in balance next year. Trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel should take the importers’ calculations with bags and bags of salt.

Importers are notably absent from giving up profits to feed the nation, but quick to the trough. 

Francois Baird 
Founder, FairPlay movement 

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