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Two years ago, chicken importers boasted that they had signed the poultry master plan, brainchild of trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel.

It was a horrendous decision because the plan, among other things, is clearly aimed at increasing local poultry market share and reducing imports. This was to be achieved primarily by a combination of increased import tariffs and higher exports.

Thus far, the export programme has been a failure, and importers have been bombarded by a range of new tariffs and sharp increases in duties.

Their perennial enemies — the local manufacturers who produce a good product — have had to contend with numerous  headwinds, the harshest being huge increases in feed prices. Yet they have increased turnover in the middle of a recession and also improved efficiencies.

Importers claim that local poultry has increased prices by a whopping 17% over the year to January 2022.

Astral Foods, by some distance the largest local producer, announced an 8% price increase for the year ended September 2021. And advertising material for products from the two largest local producers shows that individually quick-frozen mixed portions (representing about 60% of chicken sales) reflect a price increase of about 6%. So if the claimed 17% is accurate, much of it would have come from other sources.

Local poultry producers have clearly proved that, despite many obstacles, they don’t need the regular import tariff increases that the government grants. They are hugely efficient and have maintained an entirely dominant market share. So why the need for the relentless pursuit of additional duties and tariffs, which certainly add to the costs of impoverished, hungry consumers?

D Wolpert

The FM welcomes concise letters from readers. They can be sent to fmmail@fm.co.za


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