SOUTH AFRICA – The Department of Trade and Industry convened a meeting with various stakeholders this week to pluck the poultry industry out of its present crisis.
The industry has been rocked by cheap imported chicken “dumped” locally at heavily discounted prices.
The biggest exporters of chicken to South Africa are EU nations.
Kevin Lovell, chief executive of the SA Poultry Association, addressed the meeting that had representatives from various government departments and other role players in attendance.
Lovell raised an array of challenges local chicken producers faced, and he stressed that as long as European countries were allowed to dump their chicken in South Africa, the local industry would suffer.
“Our companies cannot compete, it is unfair,” Lovell claimed.
He said South Africa had become a receptacle for the developed world’s waste.
However Lovell said he was satisfied that the government had engaged with the poultry industry to map a way forward.
Lovell also approved of the “task team” set up to address problems plaguing the industry.
“The key now is how the task team goes about achieving tangible goals in the near future,” Lovell said.
Garth Strachan, the department’s deputy director-general for industrial development agreed that the poultry industry was in crisis, but the government was making a serious commitment, along with other role players, to achieve a turnaround.
Strachan said one of the important considerations to emerge from the meeting was means and methods to save jobs.
He was referring to the 1350 Rainbow Chicken (RCL Foods) workers who would be retrenched at the end of the month, and Country Bird’s, another huge player in the local poultry industry, expected release of 1500 employees in the near future.
“We have been having bilateral meetings with companies like Rainbow Chicken to address the retrenchment issue,” Strachan said.
As part of their commitment, Strachan said the government was reviewing policy measures and trade agreements regarding the importing of chicken.
Strachan confirmed that his department was in the process of launching agro-processing incentives programmes to assist the industry. “We will provide the incentives but companies need to meet certain standards and requirements to earn them.
“The incentives are intended to improve production, operating systems, level of management, and help with retaining jobs.”
He said another fundamental of the rewards programme was encouraging companies to embrace transformation and also break into export markets.