Chicken imports reached a record high in 2018, according to an imports report drawn up by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) based on official SA Revenue Service statistics. Click here for the full report.

Last year’s imports ran to a total of 538 434 tons, an increase on the previous record imports year in 2016, when 528 108 tons of chicken came into the country. Imports dipped slightly in 2017 due to avian influenza (bird flu) outbreaks in the European Union, which had been a major source of dumped chicken.

However, Brazil quickly increased its exports, filling the gap left by EU producers and becoming the major source of frozen broiler portions and of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) which is used in the food processing industry.

A table produced by SAPA shows that total frozen broiler imports rose from 368 201 tons in 2015 to 538 434 tons in 2018. The value of 2018’s poultry imports, including MDM,  was R6 billion.

Frozen chicken portions – the imports including the popular bone-in portions that have harmed local producers and killed South African jobs – went up from 221 218 tons in 2014 to 383 297 tons last year.

“These continuing high import volumes show that the crisis facing our chicken industry is real and is getting worse,” said Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of SAPA’s Broiler Organisation.

“Every ton of imports represents South African jobs lost, or not created. SAPA has calculated that we could create 30 000 jobs by replacing chicken imports.”

Imports in 2018 were 19% higher than the five-year average from 2013 to 2017. Imports of frozen bone-in portions went up 23,2% to 287 071 tons in 2018.

“The relentless surge of imports illustrates the need for the government to step in and protect the local industry and the thousands of jobs involved. We are an efficient industry, but we cannot compete against imports dumped below the cost of production, or from countries with a long history of agricultural subsidies.”

Brazil has become the dominant supplier of imported chicken, accounting for 60,5% of poultry imports in 2018. Poultry imports from Brazil increased from 241 180 tons in 2015 to 348 155 tons last year. – Izaak Breitenbach, Broiler Organisation