The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called on Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to impose a 50% tariff on all chicken importers to protect South African poultry farmers and their workers.
In a letter addressed to Davies, EFF leader Julius Malema said the "massive oversupply" of imported chicken has made it impossible for local chicken producers to continue to operate, let alone compete internationally.
"If government does not intervene immediately with decisive measures, we will witness the demise of the poultry industry," Malema said.
According to him, poultry imports increased by 2.6% on a monthly basis to 50 324 tonnes in October 2016, representing a 33.2% increase compared to the same period in the previous year.
As a result of these increases, Malema said, more than 1 500 poultry farm workers have lost their jobs in 2016. "In addition, well over 3 000 poultry farm workers are in the process of being retrenched as companies are closing down."
City Press earlier reported that the poultry industry in South Africa has been making substantial losses, because it has to compete with lower priced imported poultry, which will lead a number of retrenchments in the sector.
Malema said Davies and government should treat this situation as an emergency. "[The Minister] must limit the import of chickens from other countries, particularly the European Union and Brazil."
Government recently received approval to implement a 13.9% safeguard duty on frozen chicken legs imported from the European Union, which will apply until July 3 2017.
The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), however, was of the view that the provisional import duty was far too low and that the figure should be closer to 40%.
In an interview with Fin24 published earlier, Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said the EU is the "main bone of contention". He argued that poultry imported from Brazil and the United States (US) had a minimal impact on the local industry, compared to the EU.
According to Masemola, the EU exports and dumps boned chicken, or legs and thighs, at extremely low prices in South Africa.
In his letter to Davies, Malema said South Africa should have a trade policy that protects not only the poultry industry, but the entire food production economy in the country.
"We need a policy framework that guarantees South Africa's food sovereignty as a matter of urgency."
As an intermediate intervention, Malema said, a 50% tariff should be imposed on chicken imports across the board. In addition, poultry farmers should introduce share schemes through which workers should own at least 50% of all poultry production in the business.
Malema also urged Davies to direct retailers to clearly indicate the country of origin on the packaging of imported meat products. "This will help conscious buyers to distinguish between dumped chicken and locally produced chicken."