Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

ABOUT 20,000 jobs could be lost if government does not clamp down on the import of low-quality chicken, the South African Poultry Association said on Friday.

"As many as 20,000 people in the poultry industry are threatened with imminent retrenchment as the local producers face serious operational challenges emanating from a flood of low-quality, imported chicken," association CEO Kevin Lovell said.

The government needed to act decisively on imports from Brazil and the European Union, specifically, he said.

The impact imports had on the local industry was devastating.

"Local poultry producers are losing tens of millions of rand every week. In the past 18 months, five small- to medium-sized poultry farms have closed or are in business rescue proceedings, with more than 2,000 jobs lost. Larger poultry producers shed a further 3000 more."

Mr Lovell said South Africa had one of least protected markets in the world, and the EU and Brazil were taking advantage of this by dumping massive quantities of cheap chicken.

Association senior executive Sol Motsepe said other African countries had stricter import rules.

"Nigeria, Kenya and Swaziland don’t allow imports at all, Botswana and Mozambique issue very few import permits, while Namibia restricts chicken imports through a quota system," Mr Motsepe said.

"Should South Africa be any different in protecting its own industry and the 120,000 people that depend on it for their jobs?"

In March, the poultry association applied for an increase in import duties, which the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (Amie) said could be anything up to 82%, from 24%.

The International Trade Administration Commission of SA (Itac) is to review the application and make a decision.

Amie said on Thursday it opposed an increase because higher import duties would make prices higher for consumers, whose only source of protein, in many cases, was chicken.

It was also concerned that this could cause job losses among the 15,000 people who cut, repackaged and distributed the imported chicken.

Amie would file an application at the High Court in Pretoria related to import duty costs, it said.

Sapa