Potatoes SA adds its voice to tariff protection delay
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POTATOES South Africa (PSA) has added its voice to the FairPlay Movement’s after the latter sounded the alarm over the recent lapse of anti-dumping duties, saying it would lead to the loss of jobs and businesses closing in a sector already battered by Covid-19 challenges.
PSA chief executive Willie Jacobs warned yesterday that there was a significant risk that the increased volume of below-cost frozen French fries to South Africa from the Netherlands and Belgium would cripple South African farmers and producers.
His statement came a day after the FairPlay Movement, a not-for-profit trade movement that fights for jobs, sounded the alarm over the tariff’s lapsing.
The potato industry’s anti-dumping duties fell away this month after South Africa’s independent regulator, the International Trade Administration Commission, failed to renew the application.
Jacobs said yesterday that South African producers had been experiencing many challenges brought on by Covid-19, the cost-price squeeze, rising input costs and most recently, the riots in parts of the country.
“Furthermore, our producers don’t benefit from the financial support afforded to EU farmers by their governments, and simply cannot compete with below-cost products being dumped in our country. With less demand for local produce, there will be a ripple effect on livelihoods and job-losses, not to mention the effect on the economy,” said Jacobs.
PSA said the battle between the local potato industry and global importers had a long-standing history, with South Africa being considered a prime destination for dumping frozen processed potato products.
The South African potato industry provided employment to about 45 000 permanent and seasonal labourers and was worth R7.5 billion at primary level and R26bn at secondary level. On average, the industry planted about 50 000 hectares of potatoes, with the crop accounting for 45 percent of the total vegetable crops produced in the country. This equated to a contribution of about R8.5bn to the economy.
As just one example, PSA said that McCain Foods South Africa supported more than 6 800 full-time jobs and procured potatoes from more than 100 local farmers, who planted more than 4 500 hectares of potatoes annually.
McCain Foods South Africa’s managing director, Unathi Mhlatyana, said the negative financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and other socio-economic and market conditions on local farmers and producers had been catastrophic.
“Further threats in terms of both demand and cost may force local growers and processors out of business. Supporting the local agricultural sector is the most powerful and promising measure of combating the effects of agricultural dumping, which directly threatens our economy and livelihoods,” said Mhlatyana.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE