FairPlay Movement, a South African not-for-profit organisation, founded in 2016, wants a public investigation set up to identify importers buying chicken dumped in the country by Brussels and South America.
“Importers have helped to precipitate [this] crisis,” the organisation said in a statement.
“And this is why FairPlay is calling for a thorough public investigation into the importing businesses and the profits made from buying dumped chicken and destroying South African jobs.”
For months, chicken has been central to a bitter dispute between South Africa and the EU, as some of the country’s largest meat processors have claimed Europe and, to a lesser extent, South America have dumped thousands of tonnes of unwanted chicken pieces in the country.
Dumping is a practice whereby a producer exports a product at a price below the market value in the home country, or below the cost of manufacturing the product. FairPlay Movement claimed the practice was “crippling” the country’s poultry sector.
Thousands of jobs have already been lost in South Africa’s chicken industry, and big companies, including Astral Foods, have warned of total profit collapse.
Industry experts claim the market is flooded with a surplus of chicken thighs and drumsticks – popular cuts in South Africa, but unwanted in breast-dominated markets in South America and Europe.
Surge in chicken imports
Large volumes of chicken pieces are sold cheap and in bulk to “optimistic importers at rock-bottom prices”, FairPlay Movement suggested.
It claimed these chicken pieces were often defrosted, repacked and refrozen again before being sold on. Many South African consumers were apparently unaware where the chicken pieces came from, or whether the meat was actually safe for consumption, it added.
The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) represents South African importers. In the past, AMIE’s chief executive, David Wolpert, has been a fierce critic of claims that dumped chicken imports have caused the crisis; Wolpert said it was the inefficiency of local poultry firms that had led to falling profits and job cuts. Now, AMIE has “changed their tune in the glare of the facts”, according to FairPlay Movement.
AMIE could not be reached for comment on this at the time of writing.
South African imports of chicken are rising and imported chicken legs now account for a quarter of the retail market, according to FairPlay Movement.
South Africa is the second-largest value market for UK poultry imports, with trade generating £38m last year, according to World Trade Stats. The Netherlands is another top exporter of poultry to South Africa, shipping over 120,000 tonnes of chicken in 2016.
South Africa’s government has now got involved with the crisis, setting up a specialist task force to address a range of issues, including trade, food safety and competitiveness.