SA a big loser as mo­nop­o­lies rule

The Star Late Edition - - LETTERS - Kil­lar­ney

EM­BAT­TLED South African con­sumers shouldn’t be de­ceived by the cun­ning cam­paign con­ducted by the pow­er­ful poul­try moguls in an at­tempt to re­strict af­ford­able im­ported poul­try stock.

The gi­ant poul­try com­pa­nies have clev­erly man­aged to con­script the labour com­po­nent and even a size­able sec­tion of the pub­lic to sup­port their cause by way of a fear-mon­ger­ing threat of job losses.

Much as every job is pre­cious in this coun­try of high un­em­ploy­ment, con­sumers must not al­low pro­pa­ganda to cloud their judge­ment. They should care­fully in­ter­ro­gate the facts con­cern­ing the so-called poul­try in­dus­try im­plo­sion, and de­cide if they will be dis­ad­van­taged.

The re­ally scep­ti­cal among us could even sur­mise that by tem­po­rar­ily sac­ri­fic­ing a few thou­sand jobs, suf­fi­cient pres­sure will be placed on the gov­ern­ment to once again hike pro­tec­tive im­port du­ties and im­pose even more strin­gent im­port quo­tas. Such mer­ce­nary eco­nomic strate­gies have been a short-sighted busi­ness pol­icy for decades and was at its zenith dur­ing the laager men­tal­ity of the apartheid era when that regime was at­tempt­ing to bat­tle ef­fects of in­ter­na­tional trade sanc­tions.

There were short term pro­tec­tion­ist gains which sparked some growth of lo­cal in­dus­try, but the long term ef­fects were dis­as­trous. The ad­verse ef­fect was the SA econ­omy be­came dom­i­nated by a se­lect mo­nop­o­lis­tic all pow­er­ful gi­ant car­tels and cor­po­ra­tions which in­creas­ingly didn’t know how to com­pete with in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

That mo­nop­o­lis­tic sit­u­a­tion lin- gers to­day. The cur­rent poul­try in­dus­try is also in the hands of a few gi­ant op­er­a­tors.

The ru­inous solution of most con­glom­er­ates to any de­cline in busi­ness or loss of prof­its is to in­crease prices or to wield the axe and cull staff in huge cost cut­ting swathes. They refuse to search for other less de­struc­tive so­lu­tions like cre­atively in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency lev­els or im­prov­ing waste­ful sys­tems be­cause there was no in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion due to all the trade pro­tec­tions.

But con­se­quently, in­fla­tion soars as prices in­crease to record lev­els and the South African con­sumer is the ul­ti­mate loser. South Africans shouldn’t be de­ceived. They should look closely at how prices of poul­try have soared since gov­ern­ment were pres­sured into im­pos­ing the im­port du­ties.

A few years ago poul­try white meat was a health­ier great al­ter­na­tive to the ex­tremely pricey red meat. That was un­til it be­came in­jected with litres of un­healthy brine to in­flate the weight of the bird and prices, and pro­tec­tive im­port du­ties kicked in.

A full bird that a few years ago re­tailed in the re­gion of R30 has now rock­eted to well over R70. In sav­ing the few pre­cious jobs, do we re­ally want a sit­u­a­tion whereby chicken is only af­ford­able to the very rich?

The poul­try moguls are not pre­pared to open their books so we can see the true fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity of their com­pa­nies. South African con­sumers gullibly ac­cept tar­iff du­ties and im­port quo­tas at the coun­try’s eco­nomic peril. Jean Le Palisseur

Chicken is only af­ford­able to the very rich

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