Inexpensive Importation of Chicken into South Africa

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Research Question: Can the recent exponential increase in imported Chicken, into South Africa, be seen as positive and beneficial for our country’s food security situation, economy as well as local South African’s livelihood, as a whole?

In this essay I have explored the situation in which South Africa has found itself in due to the exponential increase of poultry products into our country. The importation of Chicken goods into South Africa has increased exponentially in the past 4 years, thus leaving local Chicken farmers in huge distress as well as financial difficulty due to loss of business. The South African poultry industry is struggling significantly due to the European Union’s import decisions. The main country of origin being Brazil; however, it is known that over 10 other countries export their Chicken goods through South African borders annually. According to the senior executive of the SAPA (South African Poultry Association), over 7 major commercial producers have been liquidated and as a result, more than 10 000 jobs lost in recent months, which relate directly or indirectly to the SAPA. Major local producers were losing millions of Rands every week. Although South Africa has increased the cost of tariffs on chicken imports across their borders, the imports are still coming in at an alarming rate and people are encouraged to support local chicken producers with the hope in saving the jobs of fellow South Africans. The increase of importation of this product can therefore not be seen as positive for our country.

In recent years, the European Union has used its economic partnership contracts to enable their excess chicken pieces, which are of high quality, to be ‘dumped’ into South Africa due to the fact that the EU countries do not consume chicken wings, legs or thighs. According to the Sunday Tribune, over 530 000 tonnes of chicken were imported into South Africa last year. Due to the fact that the parts of the chicken imported into SA are seen by the EU as “trash” and of low quality, the prices at which these chicken pieces are sold are of a very low price, coming in at a lower selling price than those locally produced in South Africa. Although the EU is seen as having the biggest influence and control of chicken imports or ‘dumping’ of chickens into South Africa, it is not the biggest exporter of chicken products into SA. Brazil imports the largest amount of chicken products into South Africa. Around 60% of total chicken imports originate from Brazil, a total of 21 637 tonnes of total imports. The next big importer being the USA. Allegations have risen and some of which have been confirmed that the Brazilian poultry industry uses slave labour to produce chicken products and to work in the poultry industry which are later exported to South Africa. Suspicion rose due to the fact that the cost of an imported chicken was miraculously cheaper than that of a locally produced chicken in South Africa. If reports are correct, it shows highly unacceptable working conditions that Brazilian labourers are forced to work in. Thus, explaining why the cost of importation is significantly lower.

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The importation of cheap chicken products has placed a huge amount of strain on South Africa’s economy. This has come about due to the disturbing number of people who have been left jobless, due to being retrenched from the poultry companies from which they worked and made a living. Rainbow Chickens, the largest Poultry Company in South Africa, announced that they will be selling 15 of their 25 farms in Hammarsdale, Kwa-Zulu Natal, as well as leaving over 1350 employees’ jobless. Mikes Chicken’s in Polokwane have shut down leaving over 2000 employees jobless. Country Bird, which is based in the North West and Free State and who are South Africa’s third largest chicken producer, has retrenched 1500 employee’s since their financial struggle started. It has been estimated that for every 10 000 tonnes of chicken meat imported into South Africa, around 1 000 direct and indirect jobs are lost. South Africa’s poultry industry could create around 30 000 jobs if the country refrained from importation of poultry. It is ludicrous to think that the 27% unemployment rate is rising due to the fact that retailers are supporting the EU at a cost of their own.

As a result of SA’s largest poultry producing companies shutting their doors, the food security of poultry products has reduced rapidly within South Africa as the importation of poultry can be cut off at any moment, leaving the country with no internal option of poultry products. Being part of the typical South African’s diet, no option of poultry products within the country will lead to a huge devastation with regards to the expensive and often unavailable food options left over. The government needs to address and put a stop to the overpowering dominance that the EU have over the control of South Africa’s poultry market by engaging in anti-dumping practices, higher import tariffs and other strict methods to reduce the importation of these products. It is a growing concern for other employees as no job can be safe in companies struggling to compete with cheap imports of food or commodities. It is truly sad that one of the most labour intensive industries has, as well as is, in the process of shutting down in an already poverty stricken South Africa.

Cheap importation of poultry products into South Africa is and has not been beneficial for our country in anyway. It has increased the unemployment rate, in result increased the crime rate, it has been a huge loss with regards to the possible economic gain South Africa could’ve achieved as well as the internal flow of money from which the poultry industry contributed hugely towards. People have been forced to seek employment elsewhere which has dug poverty stricken South Africa deeper into its hole. The situation in which the country is currently in with regards to huge financial loss can be blamed on the South African government’s decisions on importation. However, the decision on the survival of South Africa’s poultry industry, food security, the livelihood and the future of up to 130 000 employees as well as their families is purely in the hands of government and the decisions they make here after.

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