South Africa Raises Import Duties on Whole Chickens to 82%

South Africa raised duties on chickens shipped from overseas to help boost the local industry and halt job cuts, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said.

The country will raise tariffs on imports of whole birds to 82 percent, the maximum allowed, from 27 percent, Davies told reporters today in Pretoria, the capital. The duties apply to shipments except those from European Union nations and are effective immediately, he said. The charge on chicken-carcass imports was lifted to 31 percent from 27 percent, while that on boneless cuts increased to 12 percent from 5 percent, he said.

Companies including Astral Foods Ltd. and RCL Foods Ltd., the country’s biggest chicken producer, have asked for protection from imports amid a drop in profit. The South African Poultry Association says imports of some cuts from Brazil and Europe are hurting the local industry and may lead to as many as 20,000 job losses. The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters, a local meat-trading lobby group, says increasing duties will drive up food costs for consumers.

“You will pay a little more for your roast chickens, that’s our decision,” Davies said. “Tariffs are used as a tool for industrial development; we aren’t trying to make money out of it, it’s part of developing our industry.”

Imports of bone-in portions, which comprise 70 percent of South African production, will be subject to a 37 percent tariff compared with a duty of 2.20 rand ($0.22) a kilogram, while offal duties will rise to 30 percent from 27 percent, the department said in a statement handed to reporters.

Association Disappointed

“We are disappointed to see that there have been increases in imported chicken duties as these will be financed by the poorer people of this country,” David Wolpert, chief executive officer of the importers’ organization, said in an e-mailed statement. It isn’t considering an appeal, he said by phone.

Astral pared an earlier decline of as much as 0.8 percent to trade less than 0.1 percent lower at 95 rand by the close in Johannesburg. RCL climbed 3.7 percent, the most since Sept. 2, to 16.90 rand by the close, having traded as much as 1.2 percent lower before the Davies’ comments.

The tariffs will apply to chicken imports to all countries that are members of the Southern African Customs Union, namely Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

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