EU worries over growth hormones in SA chickens

Cape Town – The European Union (EU) is concerned about South Africa’s ability to deal with exposure to prohibited medicines and growth hormones with regard to its poultry and other commodities.

Briefing the portfolio committee on trade and industry at Parliament on Tuesday, Dessislava Choumelova, EU counsellor for trade and economics, said there are serious concerns about South Africa’s ability to conduct strict sanitary controls.

The understaffing at state veterinarians and “problems” at South Africa’s laboratories were cited in residue and public health audits conducted in February this year as reasons for health and safety concerns.

“We (the EU) need to be convinced and sure of South Africa’s ability to deal with exposure to prohibited medicine and growth hormones,” Choumelova said, “not only for poultry but for all commodities.”

She pointed out though that the EU is offering its assistance to South Africa to meet the necessary sanitary requirements, citing progress made in citrus exports to the EU as an example of the benefits of such cooperation.

“In the South African citrus industry, we helped facilitate sanitary requirements. As a result, citrus exports have grown significantly from 2007 to 2016,” Choumelova said.

The EU briefing formed part of a second round of engagements that Parliament hosted to address the crisis in South Africa’s poultry sector.

Late in March this year, stakeholders such as the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) and the Food and Allied Workers Union argued in the first round of engagements that the large-scale jobs haemorrhage in the poultry sector is a result of imports and dumping of cheap chicken products from the EU and Brazil.

READ: Poultry crisis: What is the actual problem?

On Tuesday, the EU’s Choumelova said that since December 2016 there has been a sharp drop in chicken imports from the EU. “Overall, EU imports’ share in domestic SA poultry consumption has not exceeded 10% in 2016.”

No dumping of inferior chicken

She also pointed out that the poultry imported from the EU is of the same “high quality” as that which is sold in the EU, and there is therefore no dumping on the South African market. She added that the EU does not subsidise production or imports of chicken from EU member countries.

South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has recently requested market access for South Africa’s poultry, which according to Choumelova would be well received.

During question time, she was asked if there’s “room” in the EU for South African chicken.

“South Africa benefits from a preferential trade agreement with the EU,” Choumelova said, “under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). I don’t see why there shouldn’t be space for South African chicken in Europe.”

She added that the EU is currently engaging with SAPA to create an export strategy for South African chicken.

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