BIRD FLU OUTBREAK
Food security threat: Government calls for relaxation of dumping duties on poultry imports
DTIC calls on the International Trade Administration Commission to consider a temporary rebate to avert a looming food crisis.
Chickens are dropping like flies in South Africa due to the worsening and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak, causing severe shortages of eggs in the northern parts of the country. In the coming months, poultry product supply is likely to be under severe pressure, threatening food security.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTIC) has directed the International Trade Administration Commission (Itac) to offer a temporary rebate on anti-dumping duties on imports of frozen bone-in portions of poultry from Brazil, Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Spain, to mitigate against a shortage of chicken.
This comes just two months to the day after Itac reinstated the duties to protect local producers from dumping.
In July 2022, anti-dumping duties were approved on frozen bone-in portions of chicken originating in or imported from Brazil, Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Spain, after an Itac investigation uncovered evidence of dumping.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, however, suspended the implementation of the duties for 12 months, citing concerns about food price inflation and the impact on local food security.
With bird flu wiping out millions of chickens in six of the country’s nine provinces, DTIC Minister Ebrahim Patel has now asked Itac to consider a temporary rebate provision on chicken meat and edible offal of fresh, chilled or frozen chicken.
Itac said the investigation had to be done in an expedited manner. Feedback to the ministry is expected within two weeks.
On Monday, the Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development confirmed that South Africa is dealing with several HPAI outbreaks, which resulted in the culling of more than 2.6 million chickens as of 21 September 2023.
Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza met retailers on Monday to discuss the bird flu outbreak and the government’s efforts to contain it. The department wants to expedite import permits for egg products and is looking at rolling out vaccinations.
South Africa does not yet vaccinate chickens.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Government considers vaccinations as avian flu outbreak triggers egg shortages
Last month, Dr Abongile Balarane, the CEO of the South African Poultry Association, said vaccination was the “long-term solution”.
A shortage of poultry will have severe food security implications on availability and prices as chicken is a basic, staple protein.
In May, leading importer Hume International sounded the alarm after two cases of HPAI were detected in wild birds in Brazil – SA’s top source of imported chicken. It called on the government to urgently implement proactive measures to avoid a looming crisis.
On Tuesday, the importer’s managing director, Fred Hume, commended the DTIC for taking swift action to avert a humanitarian crisis, but said more had to be done to allow importers to respond to supply shortages.
“(The) South African Poultry Master Plan needs to be reworked so that it demonstrates how we deal with import duties in the case of widespread outbreaks of animal disease such as bird flu…”
He said the DTIC should include regionalisation clauses in all health certificates, not only for the US, and for Itac to reopen the anti-dumping investigation on imported poultry.
“Currently their methodology is flawed and the duties prejudice tens of millions of people for the benefit of a few. Even now, it is unclear if/when/to what extent duties will be reduced/suspended.”
Importers are waiting for word from the government, Hume said.
Only once they have clear guidance can they act, after which it will take them two to three months to get the product on shelves.
Data from the National Agricultural Marketing Council indicates that Brazil provided as much as 75% of South Africa’s imported chicken in 2022.
Last Thursday, RCL Foods, which owns Rainbow Chicken, reported that it had to cull 410,000 chickens due to the outbreak. At least 11 of Rainbow’s 19 sites have been affected.
Astral and Quantum Foods have also reported similar problems.
Astral has incurred significant losses due to the safe disposal of the birds, and biosecurity measures aimed at curbing the spread of the disease. To date, the bird flu outbreak has cost Astral about R220-million.
On 22 September, Quantum reported that the HPAI outbreak affected about 1.5 million of its layer and breeding stock, costing around R106-million.
Namibia banned all chicken and egg imports from SA last week. DM