WALVIS BAY - Consumer lobbyist Rob Parker says it is high time the government protects Namibians against inferior imported chicken portions from Brazil - not only in terms of health implications but costs too.
He slammed what he called an unfair trade practice whereby Brazil ‘dumps’ chicken necks, feet and other leftovers while premium parts such as breasts have been removed, which he adds threatens the existence of the local poultry industry.
Brazil exports prime chicken portions such as chicken breasts to Europe while the other parts that are packaged in unbranded packets are exported on the cheap to countries such as Namibia.
Parker agrees with South Africa which this week came out strongly encouraging Southern African countries to unite against this onslaught from Brazil, one of the biggest exporters of chicken in the world which now targets the Sadc region with exports of rejected chicken portions.
Namibia being a net importer of chicken was encouraged by the increase in demand for poultry to invest in developing a home-grown chicken industry, resisting a pattern that saw local chicken industries in other African countries all but wiped out by dumped chicken.
Hence concerns of Namibia being a dumping ground for unwanted chicken were raised last week by the Namibia Agricultural Union, which called for drastic action against substandard poultry imports. Indications are that once thriving chicken industries in other African countries have collapsed. The Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) reports that the country imported 36 000 tonnes of chicken valued at N$473 million last year alone.
However Parker says although health and the quality of the chicken are a concern, it is what the Namibian consumer can afford, and sees it as a ‘bargain’.
“I am not saying that it is right but we have to look at affordability as it plays a major role here. A 10-kilogramme pack of imported chicken costs on average about N$350 and can last an average household about two weeks. With the current economic situation whereby we have been experiencing water and electricity price increases one cannot blame the Namibian consumer for opting for a cheap bag of chicken,” he said.
Parker says that it is up to the Namibian government to ensure that even though chicken is imported Namibians do not get a raw deal.
“For all we know we might be already consuming imported chicken that are laced with all sorts of genetically modified substances. That is what the Namibian government should protect consumers against,” he said.
He added that the ban in the past placed on importing chicken was to protect the poultry industry and not the Namibian consumer.
The South African Poultry Association general manager Izaak Breitenbach has since also voiced the association’s full support for the Namibian poultry industry.
He says their members have already joined other producers in the Southern African Customs Union in making an application to the International Trade Administration Commission for an 82 percent import tariff to be imposed on Brazil, among a number of other countries.
Breintenbach added that it was increasingly clear that Southern Africa was now in the crosshairs of exporters looking for markets for the unwanted leg quarters that are the by-products of their lucrative breast-meat exports to the US and Europe.
He says West Africa itself also experiences challenges, hence it may be necessary for Africa to stand together to fight dumping from big market players.
“As the South Africa experience proves, job losses are soon to follow, but what is worse is that the investment in a new industry that Namibia embarked on only six years ago, might bear no more than stunted fruit once this predatory trade practice wipes out any possibility of industry expansion and development,” he explained.
The experience in Namibia proves that Brazil is now targeting multiple markets with identical formats and prices, and this intentional predation needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
*Additional reporting Nampa/ANA