Black poultry farmers unhappy with tariff increase

Dr Reuben Mahlare's Bushveld Chickens. / JAMES OATWAY
Dr Reuben Mahlare's Bushveld Chickens. / JAMES OATWAY

The new higher tariffs on chicken imports will push up the price of chicken but will not stop the imports, an organisation representing emerging black importers and exporters says.

On the other hand, an organisation that aims to fight predatory trade practices and dumping says the new tariffs may not be enough to get the struggling poultry sector back on its feet.

On Friday, the government gazetted increases to 62% on bone-in chicken portions, and to 42% on boneless portions.

The SA poultry industry had applied for an 82% tariff on both categories, up from existing levels of 37% and 12%, respectively.

SA's poultry sector has shed thousands of jobs and blames its demise on cheap chicken imports from Brazil, the US and Europe.

This has brought it into conflict with SA meat importers, who blame the lack of competitiveness in the local poultry industry for its woes.

The Emerging Black Importers and Exporters Association (EBieSA) complained that the large, historically advantaged local poultry producers had been given further protection at the expense of emerging black importers.

The tariff hike would also have a negative effect on cash-strapped consumers, EBieSA said.

It estimated that a 2kg bag of frozen bone-in chicken would rise from R129 to R162.25 after the tariff and a 5kg bag from R174.95 to R224.99.

"The country is officially in recession, and consumers and small business owners need all the help they can get. Why ramp up the tariff so substantially?" EBieSA chair Unati Speirs said.

"The local poultry industry is the problem, not the importers. SA produces 70% of local demand for chicken, and imports make up the other 30% which the local industry cannot produce... "

Francois Baird, the founder of FairPlay, said: "This is the first test of the poultry industry master plan signed at the end of last year.

"One of the plan's objectives was to 'contain' imports so that the industry could recover, grow and create jobs."

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