SOUTH AFRICA –  The South African Poultry Association (SAPA) has called for more interventions o protect the local poultry industry as chicken imports hit 538 434 tonnes in 2018 putting more pressure on domestic market. 

According to data from the association, the imports hit a new record high last year increasing from 528 108 tons recorded in 2016, reports Business Day.

According to Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of SAPA’s broiler organisation, cheap frozen chicken imports have continued to flood the local market subsequently putting pressure on the local industry despite South Africa’s potential of being poultry sufficient.

“The relentless surge of imports illustrates the need for the government to step in and protect the local industry and the thousands of jobs involved.

We are an efficient industry, but we cannot compete against imports dumped below the cost of production, or from countries with a long history of agricultural subsidies,” said Breitenbach. 

Data from SAPA reveals that the country’s poultry production has been made significant improvement especially after the deadly avian flu disease that slumped the sector causing an influx in chicken imports last year.

“Imports dipped slightly in 2017 due to outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) in the EU, which had been a major source of dumped chicken.

However, Brazil quickly increased its exports, filling the gap left by EU producers and becoming the major source of both frozen broiler portions and of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) which is used in the food processing industry,” SAPA extrapolated. 

According the poultry association, the value of all poultry imports in 2018 was valued at US$431.9 million with frozen broiler imports shooting by almost double from 368 201 tons in 2015 to 538 434 tons in 2018.

Additionally, 2018 imports were 19% higher than the five-year average from 2013 to 2017 with frozen bone-in portions recording a 23.2% increase to 287 071 tons in 2018, reports SAPA.

“Frozen chicken portions – the imports including the popular bone-in portions that have harmed local producers and killed South African jobs – went up from 221 218 tons in 2014 to 383 297 tons last year. 

Every ton of imports represents South African jobs lost or not created. SAPA has calculated that we could create 30 000 jobs by replacing chicken imports,” said Breitenbach.   

Brazil is the major source of the country’s poultry imports accounting for 60.5% of poultry imports in 2018 and has increased its chicken supply to South Africa from 241 180 tons in 2015 to 348 155 tons last year.