South Africa’s poultry sector is ready and capable of exporting chicken to the rest of the world, but according to FairPlay, there are a few stumbling blocks preventing it from fully tapping into the export market. These include issues relating to the chicken’s health status, the country’s testing infrastructure, and the time it takes to process test results from laboratories to ensure that the chicken meets international standards.
According to FairPlay’s Francois Baird, the country’s poultry sector is expected to export at least 3% to 5% of locally-produced raw and cooked poultry by 2024, and at least 7% and 10% by 2028 to areas like the Southern African Development Community (SADC), countries included in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the European Union, the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East.
“South African producers are globally competitive. The local industry can produce a kilogram of chicken meat at a lower cost relative to the European producers,” Baird told Vutivi News. “South Africa has preferential access to the EU under its Economic Partnership Agreement, however, it currently does not have the required veterinary staff and facilities to enable certification of compliance to EU food safety stipulations. Therefore, exports to the EU are limited under current conditions.”
Baird said that the poultry industry was working with the government to remove these obstacles, but the process was taking time. “The SA Poultry Association has put forward a collaborative strategy with the Food Safety Agency (QSFA) to use the QFSA’s veterinarians to alleviate the current capacity issues, but the certification process is lengthy and time-consuming,” he said.
Baird also said that the country’s testing infrastructure was not growing with an industry that has invested just over R1.5 billion over three years to establish more farmers so that new entrants could have access to markets in order to sell their products. “This partnership (with the AfCFTA) is already being utilised to capitalise on export opportunities, but the bottlenecks aren’t necessary for accessing those markets,” he said.
“It’s having the right partners locally to ensure that the target market requirements are measured and met, but the testing industry has not grown with the industry, and our labs are backed up,” he said. “(While) the industry (itself) is export-ready, many markets are inaccessible because certain markets cannot be measured and reported on timeously as our laboratories are backed up.”
Baird also emphasised the continuous damage dumped chickens were having on small-scale producers. Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel recently announced a 12-month suspension on anti-dumping duties, a move Baird at that time strongly condemned. “Without definitive tariffs on these illegally-dumped imports, small producers are the ones who suffer the most, as their market access all but evaporates,” he pointed out. “A lot of things can be done to encourage, establish and upskill smaller producers, but without defensive tariffs, it will be a losing battle, one that not even the larger producers are immune to.”