Can you have an SA Christmas?

2008-11-28 00:00

DESPITE a drive by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) to “buy South African” in order to save and create jobs in the current tough economic climate, chances are that even your Christmas turkey will have to be flown in from abroad.

Even the most dedicated shopper looking for home-grown Christmas presents, might find this a tough call. Major retailers find it difficult to source locally produced goods and few will divulge exactly what percentage of goods is home made.

Mr Price, for example, refused to provide any information. Woolworths said 90% of foodstuffs are sourced locally, but did not give percentages for other merchandise.

“International sourcing is only encouraged where the ideal product, technology and quality is not available locally or comes at a premium to the customer. In cases where raw materials are sourced abroad, local manufacturing is strongly considered,” a spokesman said.

Mass Discounters merchandise director Tyrone Vieira said Game and Dion Wired make every effort to buy locally. The main issue is whether these products can be sold to customers at an affordable price. South African goods are not competitive when compared with much cheaper products manufactured in countries such as China, where production costs, especially labour costs, are low.

He said that while there are plenty of local suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods (food and household cleaners) and even in the household textiles sector, there are few, if any, for bigger ticket items such as television sets. The market is too small to sustain the volumes needed to make such factories viable.

Allan Hirsch, head of Hirch’s Homestores, agreed. “It is particularly difficult to source any high-end quality products in South Africa. The market is relatively small for a local manufacturer to produce any modern appliance.”

He added that in many cases people don’t even realise that goods with South African names are produced abroad. In many instances, manufacturers themselves source these goods.

Alternatively, a large proportion of components are internationally made and the final product simply assembled here.

As a result, Hirsch said, it is difficult to say exactly what percentage of goods in his stores are local.

“If you are talking about South African-based companies, it is probably about 20 to 25%. If it is solely South African-manufactured goods, it is probably about five percent.”

Proudly South African branch manager Leisle Timol said yesterday that it is difficult to get retailers to stock members’ products.

To qualify to display the Proudly South African logo, at least 50% of production costs have to be spent in South Africa and companies must not only meet quality standards but commit to fair labour practices and have sound environmental policies.

Sadly, Proudly South African has only 1 000 to 2 000 active members at present.

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