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US poultry lands but relevant sellers still a mystery

| Supplier news

US Chicken has landed on South African shores after a 15-year absence, but mystery surrounds which retailers will stock it.

An estimated 16-million kilograms of American poultry arrived in the country last month as part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act agreement, through which the country will have to import 65,000 tonnes of US bone-in chicken a year without imposing an antidumping duty.

South African Poultry Association CEO Kevin Lovell said little was known about which retailers would stock the chicken.

Pick n Pay said its fresh chicken was produced locally. "None is imported from the US. If we did, it would be labelled as such."

Shoprite confirmed that its supermarkets in the Western Cape would receive a small quantity of pre-packaged frozen chicken leg quarters imported from the US in six weeks.

"This consignment represents less than 1% of the supermarket group’s frozen chicken sales. Imported products are clearly labelled with the country of origin so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions."

Spar could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mr Lovell said that the imports had not yet had a significant effect on the local industry.

"There is distress in the local industry, but the level of US imports to date cannot be seen as the main cause of the distress.

"As more US chicken does arrive we will be able to more effectively link imports with local industry harm," he said.

Data from the South African Revenue Service show that poultry imports totalled 38.736 tonnes in January, with Brazil being the dominant exporter at 49.3%.

The European Union accounted for 43.7% of total poultry imports. The US, as of January, accounted for a paltry 0.6% of total imports.

But there has been concern about whether or not the US chicken is safe for consumption despite Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s assurances that it is.

Department of Trade and Industry spokesman Sidwell Medupe explained on Monday that SA had agreed to risk profile all poultry imports from the US for the first few months.

US embassy spokeswoman Cynthia Harvey said the poultry was safe and pointed to 138 other countries accepting American exports.

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