US to blame for AGOA hold-up‚ says SA poultry association
The SA Poultry Association (Sapa) has come out in support of Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies‚ saying that “brinkmanship” alleged to have soured trade relations between the US and South Africa were due to the US and not South Africa.
The association released a statement on Wednesday saying that one of the key issues holding up an agreement between the two countries over the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa)‚ a US trade act which aims to enhance market access to the US for qualifying sub-Saharan African countries‚ was due to inflexibility on the part of the US.
The Democratic Alliance has instead accused Davies of inflexibility in the negotiations.
Negotiations have been held up by the issue of methods to detect Salmonella in chicken meat bound for South Africa. Many areas in the US have been hit by avian flu
On Tuesday the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA (AMIE) slammed Sapa for its “stubborn protectionism” of the local chicken industry.
AMIE CEO David Wolpert accused Sapa of holding up the negotiation process with the US‚ saying the association was insisting on “unreasonable and extraordinary measures to protect the uncompetitive local industry‚ while constantly demonising American poultry”.
Sapa said in its Wednesday statement: “The current impasse in the agricultural component of the Agoa negotiations centres on food safety and health standards‚ two areas in which South Africa is justifiably proud of its achievements. The ‘brinkmanship’ alleged by AMIE to have imperilled the Agoa agricultural export benefits is due to the actions of the USA‚ not South Africa.”
Sapa is arguing that the US is pressuring South Africa to lower the standards it uses to detect Salmonella. It said the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries would only be allowed to test “what lands on our shores”‚ and not the entire production chain‚ as is part of the protocol in SA.
“With imports‚ only the product itself can be tested‚ while all steps in the local production process can be tested‚ delivering a wider set of results on which to base an assessment of disease incidence‚” said Sapa. Sapa said it welcomed “the participation of the US poultry industry in the local market through the import of US chicken – although this cannot come at any price”.
“Should South Africa not agree to lower its food health and safety standards to accommodate predatory and opportunistic US poultry producers and President Obama removes the trade benefits accruing to our agricultural exports‚ this will not remove the right to export any product listed under AGOA; it will only affect the duty free access for our agricultural exports. The likely volume drops in our agricultural exports are expected to be limited. SA’s agricultural exports are worth around US$170 million‚ while the total AGOA related trade is around US$2 billion. The losses that might occur will be a small price to pay for animal and human health‚” Sapa said.
“For South Africans‚ lowering our standards to below international norms‚ having different standards for the US compared to both all other importers and local producers as well as putting our human and animal health at risk in the process‚ is simply a price not worth paying.”