US poultry firms wait for South Africa to admit AGOA-deal exports
The extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) may have occurred over a month ago, but US poultry and pork exporters say they have yet to receive a break under the agreement. And at least one trade group has called for limits on the participation of South Africa, AGOA’s biggest beneficiary.
The extension means that sub-Saharan African exporters will continue, at least until 30 September 2025, to be able to export to the US duty free. Also, the US has expanded low-duty access for the region’s exporters under the USA’s Generalised System of Preferences from roughly 4,600 items to more than 6,400.
South Africa is AGOA’s largest beneficiary, with the US International Trade Commission reporting that the country exported US$3.1 billion under the treaty’s rules to the US in 2014.
According to a Congressional compromise, under which the AGOA extension was passed, the president was given one month to set up an ‘out-of-cycle’ review of whether the South Africans were living up to their commitment to allow 65,000 metric tonnes of US-produced chicken to enter their country without paying an anti-dumping duty imposed on US chicken legs and thighs 15 years ago.
“This hasn’t happened yet,” noted USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) president Jim Sumner. “We hope that’s going to change, but we haven’t seen real evidence of it yet.”
According to Sumner, South Africa has managed so far to circumvent the promised opening for US poultry products by imposing restrictions instead based on health concerns. He claimed the South African decision early this year to ban all US poultry products following a reported avian influenza outbreak violated the guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) by imposing a blanket (as opposed to regionalised) ban and keeping it in force for more than 90 days.
“If South Africa continues along that line, my understanding is that it could be a costly decision for South Africa,” Sumner told GlobalMeat News.
“Not at the moment,” admitted Sandile Tyini, economics minister to the South African embassy in Washington, when asked whether any US poultry products are entering his country. This is partly because the South African government needed to establish administrative procedures to implement the deal: “We need to issue a document on how to solve the problem of the outstanding duties,” he said. “We expect that US poultry producers will start exporting to South Africa early next year.”
But good news for US poultry producers notwithstanding, pork companies said they had seen little progress in negotiations with South Africa.
Shortly after the “out-of-cycle“ review of South Africa commenced early this month, the National Pork Producers Council formally petitioned the US Trade Representative to revoke or curtail South Africa trade benefits under AGOA. A decision on this is expected around 1 October, industry sources say.
US pork producers are dissatisfied with the fact that South Africa continues to ban US pork, based on concerns about porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), pseudorabies (PRV) and trichinae.
These bans are “completely without scientific justification”, said Nicholas Giordano, NPPC vice-president and counsel for global government affairs.
“We’ve been willing to engage with the South Africans about this in spite of the fact that we don’t find there is anything valid to talk about,” said Giordano. “It’s not good. We’re on the outside looking in.”