The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) leadership held an informative and insightful meeting with the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the three major poultry companies (ie Rainbow Chickens Division, Astral Food Poultry and Country Birds) and the SA Poultry Association (SAPA) on the 1st February 2013 regarding challenges facing the sector, especially the impact of the Brazilian chicken imports.
It was in this meeting that certain facts and figures were laid bare and some, certainly not all, are summarized as follows:
That the broiler industry employs 48 000 people directly and 60 000 indirectly
The poultry sector, or agricultural GDP sub-sector by 25%, uses about 33% of locally consumed maize and almost all soya oilcake with other 18 000 jobs linked to this poultry utilization
That small and medium poultry farmers have gone bankrupt leading to disappearance of 2 000 jobs with large manufacturing have shed at least 3 000 jobs in the past few years
Of the 272 small poultry farms surveyed by SAPA in November 2012 half have ceased operating and four of the medium-sized producers (Sangiro, Darling, Berwin, and Argyle) have gone bankrupt and for those lucky to remain they could cut back production by between 25% and 50%.
That imports are now the biggest source of poultry supplies in the country thereby surpassing the biggest South African poultry company in Rainbow Chickens
That while Brazil’s composition of all the imports’ country of origin has fallen from 73% in 2010 to 52.5% in 2012, this does not mean the volume of Brazilian imoports has gone down as much of it remains re-routed via European Union (EU)’s jurisdictions hence partly explaining the rise of imports from EU from 5.4% in 2010 to 31.6%. the other reason for increased imports from EU is the pure dumping that happens due to over-supply
That South Africa’s poultry is not allowed as an export to neighboring countries and much of the world due to various policy and other decisions or reasons by these countries.
That the cost of feed, arising from the discredited price-formation of maize at the Chicago Board of Trade, has gone up significantly owing to a ton of maize leaving South Africa at half a price and imported back at double an exported price
After this meeting, FAWU leadership held its own meeting and decided as follows:
To call for an urgent priority tripartite poultry sector summit in which government, through the presidency and government relevant departments (ie Treasury, Labour, Trade and Industry, Economic Development, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), poultry industry players (ie SAPA and Poultry Companies), and Trade Unions to find meeting of minds and thrash out strategies to save the sector from been wiped off the manufacturing map.
To meanwhile brief, alone or jointly with poultry association, the leadership of Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP) and broader civil society formations on the disaster waiting to explode should nothing get done in three to six months’ time from now
To wage a campaign program, including staging protest marches to Brazilian embassies and consulate offices in Pretoria and Cape Town
To stage relentless protest marches to government departments, especially the Trade and Industry, and to parliament during the State of the Nation Address
To stage the biggest protest activity during the BRICS summit in March here in South Africa as part of exposing the narrow-nationalist tendency of Brazil.
To call on solidarity and support actions from COSATU and its affiliates as well as civil society formations during our campaign program.
If no progress is achieved, to call on COSATU to add the 3rd day so as to have a three-day Stay Away action on 18-20 June as part of commemorating centenary of the Land Act and the colonial fault-lines and Apartheid legacy this brought with.
Having said the above, FAWU will leave no stone unturned in getting our poultry saved from total collapse like it happen to the clothing and textile industries. Indeed, FAWU will not allow for de-industrialization of one or more of agricultural processing.
We hope that government and relevant ministers will see it fit to respond expeditiously to a call for an urgent summit to deal with this pressing issue of saving our poultry industry from total collapse.