Despite the serious impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the local poultry industry, the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) welcomes the renewed focus on the Poultry Industry Master Plan, and praises Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza, for the progress made to date.
At President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2019 investment conference, the Master Plan – which aims to stabilise and grow the poultry sector – was signed by government, the poultry industry, importers, labour representatives and other stakeholders.
SAPA broiler organisation GM Izaak Breitenbach says it has been gratifying to achieve significant progress despite the huge logistical and financial implications of Covid-19. “Now that the initial threat has abated somewhat, attention is being refocused very strongly on the Master Plan.”
According to Breitenbach about R1-billion of the R1.7-billion investment that the industry pledged to expand capacity by 2022 has already been activated, with 5% more chickens a week being produced for slaughter.
Chicken production will increase further in 2022.
In terms of transformation and empowerment, he points out that SAPA and its members are in the process of establishing 50 new black contract grower farmers, in addition to the 70 who are already active and productive.
“We are also growing a programme of intensive support for independent black farmers to achieve the full sustainable potential of their businesses for integration into the value chain. At present there are 25 farmers in this programme.”
SAPA has also joined forces with the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa, to develop more such small, medium-sized and microenterprises.
Further, SAPA has increased its black-owned enterprise membership by 433% since January, from 18 to 96 members, with a higher target by the end of this year.
This in addition to a growing network of 670 small farmers who benefit from the association’s communication chain, which includes regular briefings on industry-relevant information, and a practical monthly farmer’s webinar.
SAPA is also in the process of establishing a new training facility at Bekker High School, an agricultural school in Magaliesburg, Gauteng.
In terms of enhancing the regulatory framework and compliance, which is another pillar of the Master Plan, Breitenbach welcomes the decision by the Ministers to outlaw the accountability-dampening practice of labelling bags of imported chicken with multiple possible countries of origin. “This is a significant victory for food safety; which is compromised when a single bag of imported chicken can claim to be from one of 11 possible countries, as was the practice.”
Food safety is a concern when it comes to the practice of thawing imported chicken for reprocessing, repackaging and sometimes refreezing, according to Breitenbach.
“The thawing of bulk frozen chicken meat is only safe when done under very strict safety protocols. Consequently, it is not illegal to thaw meat, but the Agency for Food Safety and Quality has recently reported major issues with compliance.”
As such, he points out that there are many tonnes of imported chicken meat product that do not comply with official safety protocols and this is why thawing was included into the Master Plan as a practice that has to be stopped.
“We are still petitioning for chicken meat to be imported in its final packaging, which would resolve these problems.”
Arguably the most important of the five pillars of the Master Plan pertains to trade measures to support the local industry.
“South African producers are entirely capable of producing to the full demand of the market,” says Breitenbach, adding that SAPA has proof that dumping is happening.
“We will seek remedies, including tariffs, to end these unfair and market-distorting practices.
“The constant scrutiny of trade practices that harm the domestic industry, the local economy and the South African job market is an ongoing priority. Our industry recently invested a billion rand in the South African market with more to come, while imports have resulted in as much a R6.1-billion leaving our shores to the benefit of the poultry industries of the US, Brazil and the European Union,” he says.