LETTER: Claim that SA should expect chicken shortage is nonsense
Total poultry production in SA is currently a little short of 2-million tonnes per year
Francois Baird correctly rubbishes the claim that we should expect a shortage of 847,000 tonnes of chicken due to the avian influenza outbreak (“Who benefits from higher chicken imports?” November 30).
This figure bears no relationship to the facts. I have been out of the industry for five years, but spent over two years doing part-time import consulting work with both trade consultants and individual importers, which included detailed studies of all available facts and figures related to local poultry producers.
Total poultry production in SA is currently a little short of 2-million tonnes per year. Between 55% and 60% of that comprises individually quick frozen (IQF) packs, which are only produced in SA, so cannot be imported. SA also produces another 10%-12% fresh chicken, which by its nature cannot be imported.
SA exports about 80,000 tonnes of chicken a year. The total of the above three excluded categories would be about 1.4-million tonnes. The balance of local and imported chicken cuts available for local consumption would then equate to about 600,000 tonnes. These numbers support the view that the expected shortage number that were quoted are unrealistic.
One additional observation — at the time of writing, about 2-million tonnes of imported product is sitting idle outside our harbours, and more on both immobile and in-transit trucks at our ports. Some of this would undoubtedly be chicken, so how reliable are chicken imports if they arrive months late?
Imports are essential for a healthy economy, but not as substitutes when huge local difficulties arise. SA's transport infrastructure and logistics are too unreliable.
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