Durban - THE ASSOCIATION of Meat Importers and Exporters has ruffled feathers saying if importing chicken was stopped, it would result in the increase of chicken prices that would exclude the poor.
Chief executive of AMIE Paul Matthews said: “If you cut imports out, what will happen to poultry in this country? It will just become so controlled, the prices will just increase so that the lower LSM who enjoy the product will be unaffordable for their baskets.”
However this view did not sit well with the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group who described imported chickens as “s**t”. The SA Poultry Association (Sapa) agreed saying the AMIE was “scaremongering”.
Matthews said when poultry import tariffs were introduced last year, the SA National Consumer Union said this would result in higher chicken prices. “A bag of Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) chicken portions has risen from R63.87 to R77.61 – an increase of 9% – in one year. This means that minimum wage earners will struggle to afford what should be an affordable source of protein,” he said.
PMBEJD researcher Julie Smith said chicken was the most affordable source of animal protein for the poor and when chicken prices increased, people often resorted to eating the innards but this was a problem as imported chicken did not have these. Smith, whose organisation produces the Household Affordability Index that looks at the cost of a basket of nutritious food for a poor family, said they had not seen a significant rise in the cost of chicken prices.
She said raising chickens was not hard, but chicken feed was expensive and controlled by a monopoly. Smith said what needed to happen in South Africa was for there to be a more sustainable way of producing chickens.
She said the problem with the poultry in the country was that it was mainly poor quality dumped frozen chicken that was prevalent. “It is s**t and full of rubbish,” Smith said.
South African Poultry Organisation’s broiler general manager Izaak Breitenbach also took a dim view of the AMIE’s statement.
He said: “AMIE likes to claim that tariffs lead to increased prices for consumers – they have claimed the same thing year after year and it has never been proven. This is the same unsubstantiated scaremongering claim. Tariffs only apply to unfairly traded imports – NOT ALL imports, so Mr Mathews’s claim that this is ‘aimed at cutting out imports completely’ is simply not true.”
He said tariffs were tools given by the World Trade Organisation to ensure countries traded fairly. Breitenbach said they were not afraid of fair competition as South Africa’s poultry industry was efficient. “It looked like Matthews was arguing that unfair trade should be allowed regardless of the effect that it might have on the South African economy and jobs,” said Breitenbach.
“The International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (Itac) has found that SAPA has a prima facie case of dumping against Brazil and four European countries, and we are relying on Itac to make the call about tariffs. It is not Sapa, or the poultry industry that decides on tariffs, but an official body who has South Africa’s interests at heart.”