A Pivotal Decision: Navigating the Challenges of Increased Chicken Imports Amidst Avian Influenza in South Africa

A Pivotal Decision: Navigating the Challenges of Increased Chicken Imports Amidst Avian Influenza in South Africa


South Africa’s poultry sector, a critical component of the nation’s agricultural economy, is under duress. The dual onslaught of avian influenza and the impending decision by Minister Ebrahim Patel, the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, may exacerbate the woes of this R60bn industry.

Patel is on the brink of endorsing a course of action that threatens the balance of the nation’s poultry industry. His consideration of an “expedited” investigation into rebating general import tariffs and anti-dumping duties on chicken imports could result in a deluge of imported chicken, posing a major threat to local poultry producers.

The South African poultry sector is not just an industry but is tied to the livelihood of thousands of South Africans. A decision to rebate import tariffs and anti-dumping duties could inadvertently release a wave of imported chicken, exacerbating the plight of an industry already afflicted by loadshedding, escalating input prices, and crumbling infrastructure.

According to the SA Poultry Association, such a move would be “the last straw” in potentially decimating a strategic national industry pivotal for the country’s food security and employment.

In these turbulent times, unilateral decisions could be perilous. Patel, the architect of the Poultry Sector Master Plan, has been urged to reconvene stakeholders to collectively navigate this complex landscape. Adjusting chicken import quotas in sync with the evolving trajectory of bird flu could strike a delicate balance, safeguarding both local producers and ensuring consumer demands are met.

FairPlay, an advocacy group focused on confronting trade-related predatory practices, underscores that imports are not the adversary. However, a judicious approach aligned with World Trade Organisation rules is imperative. It suggests that eliminating the 15% VAT on local chicken portions could be an immediate relief to consumers without jeopardizing the local industry.

Patel’s looming decision casts a shadow reminiscent of Ghana’s past, where duty-free chicken imports precipitated the collapse of its local poultry industry. Such precedents underscore the need for a nuanced, collaborative approach in decision-making.

Patel’s decision could shape the future of South Africa’s poultry industry. In the intricate dance between safeguarding local poultry producers and ensuring consumer access to affordable chicken, a balanced, informed, and collaborative approach may be the linchpin to securing the nation’s poultry industry and the livelihoods intricately linked to it.

Nicola Taljaard

About Nicola Taljaard

Associate Designate at Primerio - LLB and LLM International Trade Law (cum laude) graduate from Stellenbosch University, focusing on areas of International Commercial Sales Law, Sustainable Development and Social Justice, International Law of Tax and Legal Aspects of World and Regional Trade. Nicola is currently employed as a candidate attorney at Primerio International, a pan-African law firm specialising in competition, trade and corporate law.

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