Johannesburg - The government had launched an inquiry based on complaints by producers that US poultry meat was being dumped on the local market, the Board on Tariffs and Trade said yesterday.

Zach Coetzee, the spokesman for the South African Poultry Association, said: "We believe that the chicken products in question - drumsticks and thighs - are being sold at below the value of the product."

He said these cuts of chicken were sold for "at least 74c a pound" in the US market, but they were being exported to South Africa for 24c for the same weight.

"We asked the government to instigate an anti-dumping investigation, and we welcome this move.

"I am pleased that our government seems willing to back us. There are 58 000 workers in this country who are dependent on the success of the poultry industry."

Coetzee said the US poultry industry was 33 times larger than South Africa`s and he was at a loss to explain why the alleged dumping was taking place because the local market represented a tiny outlet for US breeders.

All interested parties were asked to submit their views on the dumping allegation. If the government was satisfied there was dumping, it could impose a duty on imports of poultry drumsticks and thighs from the US.

In deciding to initiate the investigation, the government had already concluded that the US poultry exporters did have a case to answer.

After comparing the domestic US prices against import prices, the board "found that there was prima facie proof of dumping".

South African producers claim that because of this alleged dumping, prices are being kept artificially low in the local market, and the board has found prima facie of "material injury" to domestic producers.

In another development, anti-dumping duties of up to 65,47 percent have been placed on imports of electric cables from India.