Pretoria — South Africa's Minister of Trade and Industry and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have met with the ambassador of the European Union (EU), Dr Marcus Cornaro, to discuss bilateral trade relations.
The meeting took place in the context of the entry into force of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA group in October 2016.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana agreed that the EPA marks the strengthening of investment relations between South Africa and the European Union.
The relevance of the EPA was emphasised in the 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA) that was delivered by President Jacob Zuma on 9 February.
SA's poultry challenges
The Ministers and the EU discussed at the meeting on Friday the crisis in the domestic poultry industry. Some poultry producers have announced major retrenchment plans amid concerns of the import rate of poultry products from other countries.
"The Ministers emphasised the importance of the poultry sector to rural development and the revitalisation of the agriculture and agro-processing value chain. The Ministers highlighted the measures implemented by government to date, which aim to address the challenges facing the industry in totality," said the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).
The meeting recognised the crisis in the poultry industry as being complex and thus offered a platform to exchange views on the challenges faced by the industry, which includes structural and competitiveness issues, as well as increased imports.
Cornaro said the EU is of the view that the crisis is caused more by the structural challenges affecting the poultry sector rather than EU imports.
He also expressed the EU's support for the restructuring of the industry. He said exports of South African poultry to the EU are an opportunity which should be pursued.
Both parties expressed good will to help facilitate market access and to enhance their cooperation on sanitary and phytosanitary issues (SPS).
The EU and South Africa are further committed to engage in outreach activities, sectors analyses, tackling trade barriers and the smoothening trade flows to help business take full advantage of the Economic Partnership Agreement.
Both parties acknowledged that 2016 was a very good year, with bilateral volumes of exports increasing on both sides. This is expected to improve this year, in view of the number of new opportunities created by the EPA.
Meanwhile, the dti last month announced that a task team set up to deal with challenges in the domestic poultry industry has made progress since its inception.