Rob Davies. Picture: GCIS
Rob Davies. Picture: GCIS

THE uncertainty hanging over SA following its suspension from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) will ease, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Thursday.

The minister said he had received an e-mail from the US trade representative, informing him of an intention to lift the suspension.

"Based on the actions taken, I will be sending recommendations today to the president to revoke the suspension of Agoa benefits for SA," the letter reads.

Mr Davies said it could take up to a couple of weeks to get signed, but the goal was to secure it before March 15.

This follows the arrival of the first US frozen chicken in SA on Friday. The consignment, comprising about 16 tonnes of chicken pieces, arrived at the port of Durban and hit shop shelves almost immediately.

The country has agreed to 65,000 tonnes of US poultry imports annually.

Mr Davies said the lifting of the suspension was a result of the work done jointly in the negotiating process. "I think we have... a reasonable enough deal, and we have delivered on it and we have managed to secure continued participation in Agoa."

Questioned on whether consumers would be able to tell which chicken pieces came from the US and which were local, Mr Davies said the meat would be clearly marked.

"But that’s if you buy it at the supermarkets. And, obviously, if it goes into the catering industry that will be a separate story."

The country was importing bone-in portions, which include wings and legs, and other parts, Mr Davies said.

SA’s special envoy on Agoa, Faizel Ismail, gave assurances that the imported meat, which consumers had been wary of, was up to standard.

He said vets had been part of the process and the vigilance was one of the reasons the process had taken longer than expected.

"All the meat that is going to be imported — poultry, beef and pork — will meet both our own standards and the international standards. In addition, the vets will continue to undertake the normal process of sampling each consignment as it comes through and based on those tests, the products will come through into the market," Mr Ismail said.