Cheap chicken im­ports killing SA farms

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

THE FOOD and Al­lied Work­ers Union (Fawu) yes­ter­day made an im­pas­sioned plea to the govern­ment to tighten reg­u­la­tions on im­port­ing chick­ens from the EU in a bid to save jobs in the South African poul­try in­dus­try.

This comes af­ter South Africa’s big­gest chicken pro­ducer, Rain­bow Chicken, an­nounced that it was sell­ing 15 of its 25 farms in Ham­mars­dale, KwaZulu-Natal, and re­trench­ing 1 350 work­ers to re­main a go­ing con­cern as it strug­gles un­der heavy com­pe­ti­tion from cheaper im­ported chick­ens.

A 38-year-old fam­ily-run busi­ness in Polok­wane, Mike’s Chick­ens, has al­ready closed and put more than 1 000 peo­ple out of work.

In the Free State and North West, the coun­try’s third big­gest chicken pro­ducer be­hind As­tral Foods, Coun­try Bird, is re­trench­ing 1 500 work­ers.

Fawu’s gen­eral sec­re­tary, Katishi Masemola, said the govern­ment must play an ac­tive role in ad­dress­ing the EU dom­i­nance of South Africa’s poul­try mar­ket by em­ploy­ing anti-dump­ing du­ties, im­port tar­iffs and other strin­gent mea­sures.

“We ex­pected the govern­ment to know the value of a so­cial part­ner like our trade union when it signed a trade agree­ment with the EU, but we were ig­nored.

“We have a right to de­fend our in­dus­try,” Masemola said.

“We don’t fault South African poul­try pro­duc­ers be­cause they can­not com­pete with EU chicken that is ef­fec­tively sub­sidised.

“If our chick­ens were be­ing al­lowed in the EU, or if fair com­pe­ti­tion ex­isted be­tween us, we could cre­ate be­tween 20 000 and 30 000 jobs in the poul­try in­dus­try be­cause we could ex­port more chicken abroad.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Sun­day Tribune, the SA Poul­try As­so­ci­a­tion said about 530 000 tons of chicken were im­ported into South Africa last year.

Masemola said about 30 to 35 per­cent of to­tal con­sump­tion of poul­try prod­ucts in South Africa was im­ported from EU coun­tries.

He said chicken breasts were be­ing sold at pre­mium prices in EU coun­tries which dumped the rest of the birds’ meat in South Africa be­cause peo­ple from those Euro­pean coun­tries did not eat chicken wings, legs and thighs.

“But in re­al­ity the EU can­not com­pete with South Africa when it comes to whole chick­ens be­cause we are com­pet­i­tive. EU coun­tries cite ‘tech­ni­cal bar­ri­ers to trade’ when they re­ject our poul­try ex­ports,” Masemola said.

“Rain­bow alone is los­ing about R1m a day, which amounts to R30m a month. It’s sad be­cause jobs are be­ing lost in one of the most labour-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries.”

Masemola said Fawu had writ­ten to the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try when the EU poul­try trade agree­ment was signed. The depart­ment could not im­me­di­ately pro­vide com­ment yes­ter­day.

Masemola said work­ers whose jobs were be­ing threat­ened should not lose hope be­cause Fawu would not rest un­til the is­sue was re­solved.

“We are shocked at how slow our govern­ment is in re­spond­ing to this is­sue. We will con­tinue with rolling mass protest ac­tion to Par­lia­ment and to the of­fice of the EU Com­mis­sion’s am­bas­sador in Pre­to­ria. All is not lost,” Masemola said. – ANA

BLEAK OUT­LOOK: Work­ers leave a chicken fac­tory for the week­end. Soon they will have no jobs to go to.

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