Local producers, importers in chicken fight

Tensions rose in Parliament’s agriculture portfolio committee when local chicken producers and importers clashed over a proposed increase in tariffs.

The SA Poultry Association (SAPA) and the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) today briefed the committee on an imminent decision by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on a proposal to raise tariffs.

SAPA wants import duties to be raised from 27% to 82%, a move which is opposed by AMIE and other exporting companies.

AMIE told MPs it believed an increase in tariffs would push up the price of chicken, which was the main source of meat protein for South Africans.

“The net effect will be rising food prices, limited choice [for consumers] and lessened food security,” said AMIE chicken subcommittee member Georg Southey.

Local producers would also not be required to become globally competitive.

At the meeting, Southey criticised local producers, saying they were “addicted to protection” and hinting they were not being truthful about the impact of imports on the local industry.

“Over the last seven years, the production of the local industry has grown by 24% … Executive pay in the five listed poultry companies increased by 43% in the same period,” he said.

SAPA hit back, saying dumped imports were devastating local producers.

“There are 110,000 jobs that are at risk directly and indirectly, and this excludes the grain farming industry,” said the SAPA’s chief executive Sol Motsepe.

He said there were also health safety risks with imported chicken. While South African abattoirs were constantly monitored, the same did not hold true for imports.

Several MPs scolded the two men for trading insults and for bringing their “cat-and-mouse game” to Parliament.

“While this cat-and-mouse game is going on there could be a dire impact for consumers,” said Democratic Alliance MP Annette Steyn.

Committee chairman Lulu Johnson was equally unimpressed, and said the display of intolerance was disconcerting.

Both Southey and Motsepe apologised for their behaviour.

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