Poultry sector still bleeding jobs

 A farmer veterinary walks inside a poultry farm
A farmer veterinary walks inside a poultry farm

The country’s poultry sector is still gradually shedding jobs despite the setting up of a task team to try and halt the crisis in the sector, SA Poultry Association (Sapa) CEO Kevin Lovell said this week.

The chicken industry shed about 4 700 jobs in the last financial year, he added.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) poultry import quota had not been used up, Lovell said during an interview with City Press at the organisation’s AVI Africa conference held at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park.

“The Agoa quota to import chicken into South Africa is 65 000 tons, that’s from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. About 47 500 tons came in during that time so it’s not the full quota, and in rough terms what that means is that we gave up, either directly or indirectly, 4 700 jobs for the other industries to benefit. But we always knew it was a sacrifice for the rest of South Africa, that it was a commitment to the country and we kept it,” Lovell said.

The department of trade and industry (the dti) said in February this year that the poultry industry employed 48 000 and 63 000 people in direct and indirect jobs respectively.

The task team, comprised of representatives of the dti; the departments of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (Daff) and economic development; as well as the Industrial Development Corporation, was established by government in January to deal with the crisis in the poultry sector that saw the industry bleeding jobs at an alarming rate.

The team is supposed to propose a range of short- and longer-term interventions relating to trade measures, health and quality issues, competitiveness, industry growth and transformation, industrial financing, incentives and demand side interventions.

The sector industry association, Poultry SA, represents business. Labour is represented by the Food and Allied Workers’ Union.

Efforts to get information from the dti about the latest regarding the task team as well as chicken import information from its sister department, Daff, were fruitless despite several attempts to get comment from their respective spokespersons.

Sapa has previously said that for every 10 000 tons of chicken meat imported into South Africa, which is one of the best producers of chicken in the world, the country loses slightly more than 1 000 direct and indirect jobs.

The reported logic behind the Agoa poultry quota was to allow a limited quantity of unfair trade so that other industries that benefit from Agoa could continue to benefit from the agreement.

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