Photographer: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

South Africa Says Europe Imports Put Chicken Sector in Distress

  • Trade minister wants to stem influx of dark meat from Europe
  • South African farms must improve competitiveness: Davies

South Africa must defend its chicken farmers from an influx of imported dark meat from Europe or face the collapse of the local industry, said Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

While domestic producers must become more competitive to ensure the industry’s sustainability, their efforts will be useless unless cheap imports are stemmed, Davies said. Since tariffs were removed five years ago under a trade agreement between Europe and South Africa, imports of bone-in portions, such as legs and thighs, have tripled to more than 188 million kilograms (414 million pounds) in 2016, according to the South African Poultry Association.

“The competitiveness issues are there, we have to work around those with the industry,” Davies said in a phone interview Tuesday from the U.K. “But they’re not going to be solved if we just allow an influx of spare parts from around the world to come in to take over the market.”

South African producers say they’re being unfairly undercut by imported bone-in portions after tariffs on chicken from Europe were removed at the start of 2012. European consumers’ preference for chicken breasts means the continent’s producers have an abundance of legs, thighs and wings that they can sell cheaply in Africa.

“We definitely have distress, there’s no doubt about it,” Davies said.

After South Africa imposed a temporary 13.9 percent duty on European imports in December, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom wrote to Davies saying that the country’s “structural problems” were more to blame for the industry’s problems than competition from Europe.

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