/ 4 October 2023

Patel asks for temporary rebate on poultry imports to avert shortages after bird flu outbreak

Minister Ebhrahim Patel 7146 Dv
Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel has asked the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (Itac) to consider the creation of a temporary rebate on meat and edible offal, fresh, chilled or frozen chicken imports to mitigate shortages in the wake of an outbreak of avian influenza.

The country is grappling with the H5 and H7 variants of the disease which, according to trade and industry department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo, were first recorded in the Western Cape in April. The outbreak has since spread to KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga,  Gauteng and Limpopo and has resulted in the culling of more than two million chickens.

In a statement, Itac said Patel’s directive followed a meeting between him and Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza about the avian flu crisis.

“The impact of the depletion of locally available poultry will have severe food security implications on the availability and prices of poultry, which is a basic, staple protein in South Africa,” it said.

“The minister [Patel] therefore directed Itac to consider the creation of a temporary rebate provision on meat and edible offal, fresh, chilled or frozen fowls of the species Gallus Domesticus [chicken] … Consideration must also be given to whether the temporary rebate should only be applicable to ordinary customs duties or whether rebating anti-dumping duties should also be included.”

According to Itac, South Africa imposed an anti-dumping duty on poultry in 2022 to protect local producers against cheap imports from Brazil, Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Spain.

On Monday, the agriculture department said the government was looking to import eggs to deal with shortages resulting from the avian flu outbreak, which has sent prices rocketing.

“In response to this challenge, the minister [Didiza] is focusing on measures to improve the availability of egg supply to consumers and simultaneously putting measures to contain the spread of the disease,” Ngcobo said.

Egg prices have soared by almost 76% since the outbreak, with 60 eggs now costing R239, up from R135.99.

Before the outbreak, the September edition of the household affordability index from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group showed that the price of 60 eggs had risen just 15% from September 2022 to September 2023.

Ngcobo said the agriculture department would embark on improving efficiency in issuing import permits for egg products to ensure sufficient supplies for consumers and had also facilitated the importation of fertile eggs for the broiler industry.

Abongile Balarane, the general manager of the South African Poultry Association, said the bird flu variants were the worst the country had seen since the first detection in 2017.

“Usually the common bird flu strain in South Africa is the H5N1. But around June 2023 a new strain of H7N6 was found around Mpumalanga,” Balarane said.