LETTER: To demonise poultry imports is just foul play
IREFER to numerous recent reports in various publications, including your own, regarding the parlous state of the local poultry industry.
Many of these reports, again including your own, contain misleading information and are also incomplete due to serious omissions.
There are two material issues that are not even mentioned in your reports:
South Africa is notorious for high brining levels – injecting chicken with a water and salt-based solution to “enhance succulence”.
This practice has been so abused over the years that the government has now implemented brining limits.
The practice has, over the last decade or so, driven out of business many local producers of both fresh and brined chicken who simply did not have the capital to compete, resulting in major job losses – another area where the finger has always been pointed at the poultry import industry, yet much of the local industry damage was self-inflicted by local producers.
Then there is the issue of exports. Why does the embattled local poultry industry not export more than a few thousand tons per annum? Unbrined product, with a major export drive, and the enforcement of European health requirements, could easily be exported to Europe, where no customs duties would apply, and the weak rand would be of great assistance. Such a move would certainly save jobs.
Sadly, the local poultry industry has been hard hit by the drought and consequently high feed prices, but once again, depicting imports as a major contributor to their problems is disingenuous – imports do not dominate this sector of the economy, they merely act as a balance between supply and demand, and provide the South African consumer with an option of unbrined product. They also act as a bulwark against rising poultry prices – again in the consumer’s interest.
Imports represent 14 percent of total poultry consumption, and if local poultry is successful in its efforts to demonise imports and elicit significantly higher import duties, the result will be huge increases at the tills, something our hard-pressed consumers can ill afford.
It would be far better for local poultry bosses to look at their business plans so that they can counter cyclical adverse weather patterns, maintain healthy balance sheets, compete effectively and, most importantly, ensure job security for their labour force.
The local poultry industry has been hit hard by the drought and consequently high feed prices.