09 November 2023, Daily Maverick, Lawrence Edwards and Jing Chien
The domestic poultry industry is facing an unprecedented crisis. The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) from April 2023, including the difficult-to-control H7N6 strain, has led to the culling of more than 7.5 million birds, resulting in egg shortages on supermarket shelves.
In a presentation to Parliament, the South African Poultry Association’s general manager of egg organisation, Dr Abongile Balarane, noted that it “will take 17 months before the local sector recovers from its lost production”. Sustained shortages of poultry products pose a grave threat to South African consumers, with the prospect of rapidly increasing consumer prices.
In response, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel directed that the International Trade Administration Commission (Itac) conduct an expedited investigation to consider a temporary rebate on customs and anti-dumping duties on chicken imports. The deadline for comments and counter comments from stakeholders has passed, with Itac now conducting the investigation.
There are many reasons that Itac and the minister need to seriously consider a temporary reduction of duties. A key reason is that the recommendation is pro-poor. In the face of high unemployment and food price increases that have exceeded wage increases, South African households are increasingly vulnerable to food insecurity.