Chicken wars: SA poultry producers must stop whingeing - Amie

Chicken imports are not devastating South Africa's poultry industry. This is the view of the David Wolpert, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters in response to an opinion piece by Kevin Lovell, CEO of the SA Poultry Association. He writes:  

Reading the emotive opinion piece by Kevin Lovell, one is left with the impression of imports being the marauding giant that is devastating our poor little defenceless local poultry industry. However, nothing can be further from the truth.

Imported chicken represents less than 13% of total chicken consumption in this country. This is hardly a dominant force.

Why do we import? There are two reasons:

1) Globalisation where countries trade more with one another than in the past, and it has been proven by notable researchers worldwide that globalisation benefits society’s poorer people.

2) We import because there is consumer demand for those products. Yes, consumers in SA want imported chicken, precisely because it is a quality product, far more so than our over-brined local botoxed product.

Why are local producers experiencing current difficulties? Because of high feed costs associated with the drought as well as the fact that local producers are almost totally reliant on heavily brined, low margin packs of individually quick frozen (IQF) products.

These arguably inferior products represent something like 65% to 70% of the turnover of the local chicken industry.

What local chicken producers need to do is to get their act together, revisit their business plans, produce a workable and coherent business model, which would include an export drive which is currently invisible, and concentrate on a product mix that enhances their margins and will excite the consumer.

Instead, they spend their time launching one vindictive action after another against imports, and constantly cry to government to grant them protection (they have more than enough of this already) - which is financed by poor consumers.

It is time to stop whingeing, stop attempting to trash imports, be satisfied with a massive 85% market share, and operate effective businesses that take into account economic realities of the modern commercial world.

*David Wolpert is CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters

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