An imports' report drawn up by Sapa based on official SA Revenue Service statistics showed that imports in 2018 totalled 538 434 tons. Photo: Rajat Gupta/EPA

DURBAN – Chicken imports reached a new record high in 2018 which placed further pressure on the local market, according to the South African Poultry Association (Sapa). 

An imports' report drawn up by Sapa based on official SA Revenue Service statistics showed that imports in 2018 totalled 538 434 tons, an increase on the previous record year of 2016, when 528 108 tons of chicken reached the country, said the association in a statement issued on Wednesday.  

"Imports dipped slightly in 2017 due to outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) in the EU, which had been a major source of dumped chicken. However, Brazil quickly increased its exports, filling the gap left by EU producers and becoming the major source of both frozen broiler portions and of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) which is used in the food processing industry," said Sapa. 

Sapa said its research showed that total frozen broiler imports rose from 368 201 tons in 2015 to 538 434 tons in 2018. The value of all poultry imports in 2018, including MDM, was R6 billion. 

"Frozen chicken portions – the imports including the popular bone-in portions that have harmed local producers and killed South African jobs – went up from 221 218 tons in 2014 to 383 297 tons last year. 

“These continuing high volumes of imports show that the crisis facing our chicken industry is real and getting worse,” said Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of Sapa’s broiler organisation. 

“Every ton of imports represents South African jobs lost or not created. Sapa has calculated that we could create 30 000 jobs by replacing chicken imports.” 

Imports in 2018 were 19 percent higher than the five-year average from 2013 to 2017. Imports of frozen bone-in portions went up 23.2 percent to 287 071 tons in 2018.

“The relentless surge of imports illustrates the need for the government to step in and protect the local industry and the thousands of jobs involved. We are an efficient industry, but we cannot compete against imports dumped below the cost of production, or from countries with a long history of agricultural subsidies,” said Breitenbach. 

Brazil has become the dominant source of imported chicken, accounting for 60.5 percent of poultry imports in 2018. Poultry imports from Brazil increased from 241 180 tons in 2015 to 348 155 tons last year. 

African News Agency (ANA)