US chicken finds receptive market in SA

US-Chicken-in-South-Africa Imports of American chicken, which resumed recently after nearly 17 years, are being well received by the market, local importers report.

The US poultry industry only recently regained limited access to the South African poultry market under a limited tariff quota of 65 000 metric tonnes annually. The resumption of imports of bone-in products was achieved through a government-to-government agreement linked to the renewal of the trade benefits provided by the U.S. to South Africa under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The first South African importers to take advantage of the poultry import opportunity report that wholesalers, retailers and consumers are receptive to the US chicken.

The USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), which facilitates trade between US producers and South African business partners, says that although U.S. imports represent only about three per cent of South Africa’s annual poultry production, they are bringing new choice to the market.

Anthony Schneiderman, a director of frozen meat and poultry trading company Federated Meats, says there is significant growth potential for imported chicken in the South African market. ‘Imported chicken represents only a fraction of the total chicken output in South Africa, but there is a strong demand for it,’ he explains. ‘We find that customers at the Cambridge, Choppies and Jwayelani stores actively seek out imported chicken, even though it is more expensive.’ Federated Meats has already imported and sold in excess 4 000 tonnes of US chicken.

Athena Mpitsang, founder of poultry importer Dini Lesizwe, formed her new company to benefit from the renewed import opportunity. Mpitsang, who visited the US this year as a Cochrane Fellow and guest of USAPEEC, says she was impressed by the exceptionally high standards at US processing facilities and believes the chicken imported to South Africa is of a particularly high quality. ‘I sell directly to a wholesaler in the Western Cape, and demand is picking up steadily,’ she says. Mpitsang’s imports, totalling 104 tonnes last year, have already topped 378 tonnes this year and she expects this to increase. ‘I focus on the small leg quarters, which are exceptionally popular in the local market. My research has shown particularly high growth opportunities in small towns in the North West province, so I envisage expanding my business into that region in future,’ she enthuses.

The US imports quota system is specifically geared to give historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs) an opportunity to enter the import-export market and so create jobs and help grow the South African economy, says USAPEEC.

USAPEEC’s Africa regional director, Zelda Sharp, notes that as part of its efforts to boost trade ties and support local economic growth, the US hosted a delegation of HDI importers, where they met with producers and exporters to improve their import business.

In addition, through its World Poultry Foundation (WPF), the US industry has already successfully completed its first two rounds of training to improve production skills and farm management capabilities of small poultry and egg farmers in rural areas.  They WPF will continue to sponsor additional training in 2017 and 2018 and will also work with the Future Farmers of South Africa organisation to take promising young poultry farmers to the US for additional training.