S. African poultry body voices concern about safety of chicken imports from U.S.

The chicken imported from the United States does not meet the safety tests, thereby putting the life of South Africans at risk, says the South African Poultry Association (SAPA).

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SAPA CEO Kevin Lovell told Xinhua in an interview that the SAPA will pursue various ways to resolve the issue, including negotiations.

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Lovell said, “We are concerned about the Salmonella status of U.S. product” as the U.S. imposes weaker testing of its products.

“We are concerned that the U.S.-South Africa protocol on avian influenza is not technically valid, putting us at risk. We will continue to work on the food safety and animal health issues in order to seek a resolution,” he said.

The SAPA says developed countries dump chicken onto the South African market, posing a threat to the viability of the local chicken producers.

Lovell said, “The local producers cannot afford to produce all that we need because our market is flooded with leftover products from mostly the developed world sold at leftover prices. It takes away demand and is used by customers (retailers and others) as a price negotiating tool.”

Imports are also volatile in nature and South Africa has a 22 months production cycle versus the six weeks for an importer, he said.

“It is therefore easy for us to be overstocked at short notice because of a sudden surge in imports,” Lovell said.

Lovell said there is nothing they can do but will wait for the markets to respond to the physical quality of the chicken.

Proudly South Africa, an organization that seeks to tackle the issues of job creation through local investment in local products and services, has also said the chicken from the U.S. is being sold in cooked form.

The organization said the chicken imported from the U.S. is being sold clandestinely with no label about their origin, thereby flouting the country’s laws.

Cynthia Harvey, spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, told Xinhua that the imported chicken are the same as those consumed by the country’s citizens.

“The chicken we export is exactly the same product sold to Americans in U.S. supermarkets. It is produced by the same major U.S. companies. There is no division between ‘export’ and ‘domestic’ products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects all processing facilities and certifies the safety of food products in the United States. These safeguards are extended to our exported products, too,” Harvey said.

The U.S. renewed its Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) early this year, allowing South Africa to export its agricultural products to the U.S. duty free. In return, South Africa allows 65,000 tons of poultry imports from the U.S. annually.

Harvey also said, “In South Africa, U.S. chicken is being imported by historic importers and Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDI) who are new to this market. Our chicken is imported into South Africa with a label that identifies it as U.S. chicken.”

Among a list of 21 chicken exporting countries, Brazil (241,180 tons) was the biggest exporter of chicken to South Africa, followed by Netherlands (61,995 tons), United Kingdom (15,985 tons) and the U.S. (331 tons) in 2015, according to SAPA.

The organization says chicken imports will lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs directly or indirectly in South Africa.

Harvey said South Africa’s chicken industry does not produce enough to meet the local demand, and to meet this demand, South Africa has imported chicken for more than 15 years from many countries.

South Africa is projected to import 500,000 tons of chicken in 2016. This is expected to grow by about 30 percent in the next ten years, to about 2.2 million tons per year, SAPA said. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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