30/01/2017 09:05 SAST | Updated 30/01/2017 10:27 SAST

Major Job Losses In Poultry Industry As Trade War Heats Up

Over 1200 Rainbow Chicken (RCL Foods) workers have been retrenched in Hammersdale, Kwazulu-Natal.

Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

As the trade war over chicken imports into South Africa heats up, workers at Rainbow Chickens, or RCL Foods in Hammersdale, KwaZaulu-Natal are set to become the first major jobs casualty. The Times reported on Monday that 1200 workers at RCL in the small town have been retrenched, with potentially devastating consequences for Hammersdale.

RCL Foods was the biggest employer at Hammersdale, after the collapse of the textile industry in the town due to cheap Chinese imports, the paper said.

The Times said RCL had been forced to sell 15 of its 25 Hammersdale farms due to cheap chicken imports, and that this number could soon increase.

Independent Newspapers reported earlier this month that the knock-on effect of job losses in the chicken industry could already be felt, with up to 1000 jobs being lost at one Limpopo-based business.

Calls have increased for government to protect the local industry by tightening chicken import controls. European Union countries and Brazil have been blamed for "dumping" - selling chicken parts to South Africa cheaper than local producers.

The Times on Monday quoted economist Azar Jammine, who warned that the effect on the unemployment rate at Hammersdale could be huge.

Jammine pointed out that farmers were also suffering from higher grain prices, thanks to the drought.

The Durban Chamber of Commerce called for urgent government intervention, according to the report.