28/11/2017 18:09 SAST | Updated 28/11/2017 18:10 SAST

'We Are Losing Jobs Because The Majority Of Our Poultry Comes From The EU'

Country Bird CEO: "Rich or poor, we love chicken, and it just distorts our market."

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chief executive of Country Bird Holdings Marthinus Stander insisted, given the current situation in the poultry industry, there could be "no friendly relationship" between South Africa and the European Union (EU).

Stander was particularly referring to dumping, where produce, sometimes of a lower quality, is exported at a lower price than that charged in the domestic market, which leads to undercutting of local producers.

Dumping in the SA poultry industry, by EU but also Brazil and the United States, has led to the retrenchment of thousands of workers.

"We are losing jobs because the majority of our poultry comes from the EU," Stander said.

It has been reported that another producer, Rainbow Chicken, has been forced to sell 15 of its 25 farms in Hammarsdale in KwaZulu-Natal to stay afloat after years of fighting international chicken imports at lower prices.

On Tuesday, Stander and other delegates discussed issues affecting the local industry with members of the EU's poultry sector.

The delegates included the EU's Massimo de Luca and Dessislava Choumelova, Ghana's Victor Oppong Adjei, FairPlay founder Francois Baird and South African Poultry Association interim head Dr Charlotte Nkuna.

Stander explained that EU exports to South Africa were far from beneficial for our country.

"At the end of the day, the EU is sending every last leg portion here, and our market is very much the reverse. Rich or poor, we love chicken, and it just distorts our market," he said.

"What we don't want is cheaper portions that lessens our possibility to grow," he added.

"Dumping should not only be frowned upon , it should be a criminal offence because of the effects its got."

Anti-dumping organisation FairPlay's Francois Baird demanded that all companies that are guilty of dumping should be prosecuted.

"Dumping should not only be frowned upon -- it should be a criminal offence," he said. "In Hammersdale poor people lost their jobs."

Baird also directly confronted both Luca and Choumelova saying members of the South African sector have been trying to address this urgent matter with the EU -- with very little interest effect.

"We are polite but we're feisty, and we are not going to back down. We are not against imports, we just believe the same rules must apply to everyone," he said.

But the EU representatives maintained that they want a 50/50 partnership with South Africa and warned that South African use the word "dumping" too loosely.

"The way the word "dumping" has been used in South Africa is misleading," Choumelova said.

She also said the EU strongly believes in the "No trash, no dumping" policy and that they wanted growth for South Africa as well as for the 28 countries in the EU.

Choumelova also requested the use of "war terminology" not be used in relation to dumping because "no one ever wins from a war".

Using the word "fighting" was not the answer to the problems faced in the poultry industry.

In a presentation Choumelova elaborated on the EU's willingness to maintain the 10-year relationship they have with South Africa.

"SA is an important regional and global partner... It is the EU's largest trading partner in Africa. EU poultry imported into SA is of the same high quality as that sold in the EU. EU food law and regulations impose high standards," she added.

EU Graph

Choumelova said they discussed a possible export strategy for SA chicken to the EU with the South African poultry task team in May 2017.

"This is a "win-win" solution supported by market demand and supply logic -- breast meat attracts a higher price in the EU. Job creation and a solution to the crisis can be achieved by growing the domestic market via export and market access and not by resorting to protectionist measures that would not benefit the consumers," Choumelova said.