AGOA threatens SA poultry sector jobs

Jobs in the poultry sector will reduce if chicken imports into South Africa increase.

This is according to Kevil Lovell, CEO of the South African Poultry Association (SAPA). Speaking at the recent AVI Africa Conference in Johannesburg, Lovell said that for every 10 000t of poultry meat imported, 1 070 jobs were at stake.

Lovell has been outspoken about the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and the effect that the import of poultry from the United States (US) will have on South Africa’s poultry industry. In January, South Africa was at risk of losing its duty-free benefits for goods exported to the US, as part of the AGOA agreement.

“We have no problem with trade, we only have a problem with unfair trade, and the European Union and the US do not know how to trade [fairly],” he said.

A topic of contestation was the potential health issues that could arise from meat imports, and Lovell was particularly critical of government’s decision to change its salmonella standards to accommodate the US. “South Africa’s food safety standards are higher than that of the US, and as a nation we should be proud of this. The Americans are not as good as us,” he said.

Lovell added that decreasing poultry imports would create more opportunities for South Africa’s developing poultry farmers. “We want imports to be replaced by [poultry] products produced by small-scale, black producers. This means we can get small-scale producers into the supply chain,” he said.

Prof Ferdi Meyer from the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Pretoria, said that the industry had to do everything it could to remain sustainable. “In 10 years from now, the poultry industry doesn’t want to find itself in a similar position as the textile industry, which simply disappeared,” Meyer said.