The right of South Africans to access a prime source of dietary protein must outweigh the factional interests of sectors of the poultry producing industry, the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) said on Friday, when it called on government to arbitrate in the brewing tariff battle between local poultry producers and importers.
Noting that the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) had recently claimed that it was in discussions with government regarding policy issues on imports, AMIE CEO Paul Matthew said omitting AMIE, a vital part of the industry, would invalidate any talks, increase the divisions between the parties and place many consumers at risk of losing access to a staple source of protein.
“AMIE, in the interests of breaking through sectarian interests that are of no benefit to the consumer and the economy, has initiated an independent study of the poultry industry and its markets,” he informed.
He added that the association was prepared to make the report available to the government.
“. . . AMIE sees an excellent opportunity for the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Rural Development Thoko Didiza and her counterpart at Trade and Industry, Minister Ebrahim Patel, to provide leadership by bringing together all the parties around the table to discuss a more constructive way forward for the industry, instead of enacting punitive measures against one section of the sector.”
At the heart of the dispute between SAPA, which represents the interests of the five largest broiler producers in the country, and AMIE, which represents independent importers of bone-in and bone-out chicken pieces, is the SAPA demand that its members be given protection against imports.
SAPA had lobbied the Department of Trade and Industry and the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa to approve tariff increases that will see a surge from 37% to 82% ad valorem for bone-in cuts of chicken and a jump from 12% to 82% ad valorem for boneless cuts of chicken, AMIE stated.
In response, AMIE said cognisance was not being given to a number of issues that would arise should SAPA’s request be granted.
AMIE believes that the tariff increases will entrench a monopoly for the five large producers.
Moreover, the association said feed prices, impacted on by the drought of 2015, had dropped by up to 40%, while that relief had not translated into lower prices for consumers.
Meanwhile, AMIE said the local industry was unable to meet South Africa’s demand for chicken on its own.
“The challenges facing the poultry industry across the value chain cannot be resolved through tariffs, instead, they require a comprehensive and long-term commitment by all stakeholders.
“Any investigation and findings guiding future policy on the poultry industry would be skewed if we did not participate. We call on the government to act swiftly and in the interests of all South Africans by taking appropriate steps to prevent what could be the emergence of a monopoly in our vital poultry industry,” Matthew stated.Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online