Cheap chicken imports killing SA farms
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.