South Africa and the USA have concluded negotiations over trade related to exports of poultry, beef and pork, however those in the industry do not necessarily agree with the conditions of the deal.
South Africa is a member of a U.S. trade agreement designed to help exporters on the continent, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), but towards the end of last year, it looked like the trade agreement might have been in jeopardy after South Africa missed a deadline to conclude negotiations by the New Year.
“When government published the guidelines on 18 September, from that date U.S poultry could come into South Africa on the basis of the existing veterinary standards, however that wasn’t good enough for the U.S.A”, said Kevin Lovell, CEO of South African Poultry Association.
“What was agreed yesterday was the lowering of our animal health and human health standards to satisfy the U.S.”, he said.
Lovell adds: “In terms of impact for our industries, the 65 000 tonnes is a commitment we have made and that effect we are prepared to live with.”
However, the association is not prepared to accept standards being lowered because it affects both animal health and disease levels.
“It also affects human health but government seems to feel that they are prepared to make that concession and we will engage with government to understand in much more detail the full extent of the concession,” he said.
For instance with salmonella, the association bases their standards on the European Union which is considered a high standard, said Lovell.
“That is part of the problem, the level of salmonella that occurs in South African chicken is considerably lower”, he said.
This is compared to the levels of salmonella in U.S chicken, the standards we use are higher and according to Lovell they are not prepared to comply with those.
In a normal environment Lovell explains, the product is made for the customer, just like how cars from the U.S. come as right-hand drives into South Africa to accommodate the SA driver.
“But in the case of chicken they don’t want to make chicken for us, they want to get rid of their rubbish – and they want to get rid of their rubbish with their standards rather than with ours and that’s quite a fundamental difference of opinion and approach.”