FairPlay South Africa (FairPlay) has called on government to urgently impose a total ban on imports of chicken products from Brazil.
A statement by FairPlay explained that this was motivated by the recent criminal prosecutions of a number of former employees of Brazilian poultry processor and exporter, BRF SA, for allegedly transgressing food safety regulations.
“While a number of countries have taken action against Brazilian chicken imports, Brazil remained the major source of chicken imported into South Africa. In 2018, South Africa imported a record 348 000t of poultry from Brazil, and 205 000t [from January] to September 2019. Much of this could potentially have come from producers associated with BRF SA.”
According to the statement, government needed to ban all poultry imports from Brazil until that country’s poultry producers, processors and exporters could satisfactorily demonstrate to South African veterinary inspectors that poultry of Brazilian origin was safe for consumption.
“Moreover, the practice of South African importers to package chicken portions from multiple countries of origin together without traceability, means we are incapable of identifying the unsafe Brazilian chicken in our stores,” the statement said.
In response, the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) issued a statement accusing FairPlay of being involved in a “new protectionist public campaign”, using outdated facts to bolster its case with the South African government and public.
“It is important to note that [Brazil’s] entire productive poultry sector has acted with total transparency and in collaboration with the authorities, and that the facts investigated do not violate any standards in public health. Brazil takes its poultry production very seriously. We guard the quality of our production fiercely by complying with and embedding the strictest global health and safety programmes and controls into our production process.”
Also responding to FairPlay’s call, Paul Matthew, CEO of South Africa’s Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE), told Farmer’s Weekly that South Africa imported chicken from Brazil and other countries because local production could not keep up with national demand.
“While, on aggregate, broiler meat [imports into] South Africa doubled between 2010 and 2018, [these] imports remain a comparatively small share of total supply, accounting for between 11% and 16% of total supply in recent years.”
Matthew added that South Africa’s sanitary and phytosanitary controls on meat imports, which were managed by state veterinarians, “are very stringent”.
“AMIE, as the voice of meat importers and exporters in South Africa, encourages, supports and welcomes all efforts by South Africa and other authorities to guarantee that the produce imported into South Africa is safe and meets all quality standards. [Brazil has] shown, with the arrests [and prosecutions], that [it] takes safety and quality very seriously. We would, therefore, urge the South African government to proceed cautiously before taking such a drastic step [of banning poultry imports from Brazil],” he said.