Chicken dance: SA loses 1 000 jobs per 10 000 imports

Imported chicken meat products threaten the very existence of Mzansi’s poultry industry, warn both FairPlay and SAPA. While the US and Brazil import less than 1% of all chickens, SA imports about 30%

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The poultry value chain employs 30 000 people and contributes R50 billion to SA’s economy per year. However, Sinesipho Tom reports that R6.1 billion leaves the country every year in the form of chicken imports. Also, the import industry spends R6.1 billion in creating jobs in Europe, the US and Brazil

This year, South Africa will import at least 357 000 tonnes of chicken meat from Brazil, the United States and the European Union. Although this is an 18% decrease from last year’s 435 000 tonnes, imports still account for 30% of all chicken meat consumed in the country.

The founder of the FairPlay movement, Francois Baird, believes imports jeopardise Mzansi’s food security. It also negatively impacts on job creation and economic growth.

CHICKEN: Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of SAPA’s Broiler Organisation. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of SAPA’s Broiler Organisation. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

This is backed by shocking revelations made in a report by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA). It found that an estimated 1 000 jobs will be lost for every 10 000 tonnes of production lost because of dumped chicken imports. Also, already 110 000 jobs in the chicken industry are at risk.

Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of SAPA’s Broiler Organisation, said that if the local poultry industry had to collapse, the price of chicken would increase materially.

“Chicken in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Angola, where there is no industry, are incredibly expensive. Therefore, if South Africa wants low-cost chicken in the long term, they need to be self-sufficient,” he advises.

Economy and jobs threatened

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Breitenbach revealed that other countries don’t import as much chicken as we do, and our poultry industry is suffering as a result.

“The EU only allows 7% of total chicken imports. In America and Brazil, less than 1% of all chicken is imported. What is concerning is that for the last 10 years, imports have grown in South Africa and the local poultry industry stayed the same.”

“THE country and its people must support local production to sustain the long-term low cost of poultry meat.” – izaak breitenbach  

Breitenbach said despite the fact South Africa’s poultry industry was globally competitive and the second biggest agricultural industry, it has produced chicken cheaper than the EU for the last 13 consecutive years.

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Poultry value chain

He added that the poultry value chain employs 30 000 people. It contributes R50 billion to the local economy per annum which assists with job creation and economic growth. However, R6.1 billion leaves the country every year in the form of chicken imports.

CHICKEN: South Africa's poultry industry has stagnated in the last decade while imports of chicken meat products increased. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
South Africa’s poultry industry has stagnated in the last decade while imports of chicken meat products increased. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“Every year, the import industry spends R6.1 billion in creating jobs in places like Europe, America and Brazil.

“Those countries have low unemployment rates, and our unemployment rate is in excess of 30%. I think an important statistic is that a third of the whole population of South Africa is under fed in terms of nutrients.”

According to Breitenbach some countries also give South Africa, for example, R10 million worth of aid, but then they take R6.1 billion out of the country.

“So, that’s hardly looking after our interests as a population and as consumers. Imports create development outside of the country. If we brought all the imported business, this industry can create 15 000 jobs and put food on the table for 15 000 families.”

Buy local campaign

Breitenbach explained that buying local chicken could also open up jobs in sub-sectors such as the maize and soybean industries.

“Local chickens eat South African maize and all the chicken in South Africa eat South African soyabeans. So, if we could replace all the imports with local production, we could produce 30% more maize and 30% more soya and also create jobs and economic wellbeing in those sectors. In  terms of buying local that is the very big reason why we should be doing that,” he said.

Francois Baird is the founder of the FairPlay movement. Photo: Supplied
Francois Baird is the founder of the FairPlay movement. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

In a bid to save poultry industry, the FairPlay Movement, Proudly South African and various trade unions launched a campaign to promote local chicken.

The “Buy local chicken” campaign is aimed at retailers and wholesalers. They buy significant quantities of imported chicken from producers that engage in predatory trade practices.

Also, it aims to educate consumers on the advantages of buying and eating local chicken products.

According to the FairPlay Movement, the campaign is fully aligned with the “Buy local” drive in South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 15 October 2020.

It also supports the poultry master plan, which aims to boost the local chicken industry by curbing imports and expanding production for the local and export markets.

Save local jobs

Bheki Ntshalintshali, Cosatu general secretary, said, “In the past two decades, and as a consequence of predatory trade practices, huge volumes of chicken imports have cost thousands of South African jobs. Now that Covid-19 has thrown millions more out of work, jobs are even more critical. Buying local chicken means saving and creating South African jobs.”

“Every job is precious,” said Mlamleli Pukwana, general secretary of the Agricultural Food and Allied Democratic Workers Union, a new agriculture-focused trade union. “We must stop job losses caused by predatory chicken imports and create jobs by expanding our local chicken industry.”

Baird meanwhile believes that jobs could be saved and created, not only to meet expanding consumption, but also in imports replacement.

“The poultry master plan aims to create 5 000 jobs over the next few years. I am sure we could double that with an additional drive to replace the predatory imports which have been killing local jobs.”

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