South Africa should consider exporting poultry products to Europe, says EU envoy

The South African poultry industry is in crisis, and Europe has been blamed for it. The country’s chicken producers accused the European Union (EU) of dumping cheap chicken in South Africa and demanded a ban on imports. They claimed that after making enough money selling chicken breasts in Europe, producers send chicken legs and wings that are left as a waste product. However, the EU argued that it is not the cause of the South African poultry industry’s woes. David Wolpert‚ CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA (Amiesa) agrees.

Wolpert believes the crisis rocking the poultry industry relates more to the high cost of feed due to the drought, than cheap imports from Europe. Some poultry producers have announced major retrenchment plans amid concerns of the import rate of poultry products from
other countries.The EU is the Southern African Development Community European Partnership Agreement (EPA) Group’s largest trading partner, with South Africa accounting for the largest part of EU imports to and EU exports from the region. The EPA is a free trade deal signed last year by the EU and southern African countries, including South Africa.

To address the rocky start to the EPA, South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have met with the Ambassador of the European Union (EU), Dr Marcus Cornaro, to discuss bilateral trade relations.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies; and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana; agreed that the EPA marked the strengthening of investment relations between South Africa and the EU. The relevance of the EPA was emphasised in the 2017 State of the Nation Address that was delivered by President Jacob Zuma on February 9.

The ministers and Dr Cornaro discussed the crisis in the domestic poultry industry.

According to a statement released by the South African Department of Trade and Industry (dti), “The ministers emphasised the importance of the poultry sector to rural development and the revitalisation of the agriculture and agro-processing value chain. The ministers highlighted the measures implemented by government to date, which aimed to address the challenges facing the industry in totality”.

While the widely held opinion is South Africa is that increased imports is the bane of the country’s poultry industry, Dr Cornaro said the EU was of the view that the crisis was caused more by the structural challenges affecting the poultry sector rather than EU imports. He also expressed the EU’s support for the restructuring of the industry. He welcomed exports of South African poultry to the EU, encouraging South African producers to pursue such opportunity. Both parties expressed goodwill to help facilitate market access and to enhance their cooperation on sanitary and phytosanitary issues.

The EU and South Africa also committed to engaging in outreach activities, sectors analyses, tackling trade barriers and smoothening trade flows to help businesses take full advantage of the EPA. Both parties acknowledged that 2016 was a very good  year, with  bilateral volumes of exports increasing on both sides. This is expected to improve in 2017, in view of the number of new opportunities created by the EPA.

The dti had last month announced that a task team set up to deal with challenges in the domestic poultry industry had made progress since its inception.