By Thakira Desai
The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and its industry stakeholders have called on the European Union (EU) to intervene in the job loss crisis that has hit the South Africa’s poultry industry. This follows a recent march by FAWU and its members to the European Union (EU) Embassy in Pretoria earlier this week.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, MD of RCL Foods, Scott Pitman explains that while job losses have been experienced for quite some time, it previously impacted mainly small companies, but is now being experienced in bigger retailers.
He says that the poultry industry is directly impacted by EU produce being pushed into the South African market.
“The EU dumps stuff they don’t want to eat in South Africa, but we want the EU to acknowledge that as organisation they represent 27 countries and it does a lot of good work, but this is certainly not part of its good work,” Pitman added.
Commenting on the situation at Rainbow Chicken, where over 1300 workers, including managers, lost their jobs, Pitman says that the company as a whole sold two thirds of the farms that supplies the abattoir.
He says that when purchasing imported food, consumers need to keep in mind that the food is in fact older and that the physical quality is not always up to standard, having been imported in a frozen state.
“Sometimes there may be biological [concerns] when it comes from the USA.”
While imported poultry is often considered the cheaper option, Pitman asserts that though imported poultry may enter the country “unnaturally” cheap, it is not sold by retailers at a cheap rate; a fact which he says is at the expense of job creation within the local market.
“Remember they don’t only represent workers in the chicken farms; they represent workers in the grain industry and other parts of the industry, so it has a huge impact.”
Given the fact that South Africa law does not require companies to label countries of origin on products, Pitman encourages consumers when purchasing chicken products to ask where the chicken is sourced and to refuse to purchase food items if the chicken is sourced internationally.
Meanwhile, the General Secretary for Food and Allied Workers Union, Katishi Masemola explained that the march a memorandum of petition, from both the union and industry, was handed over and did not only include general phrases of principles, but detailed evidence about the uncompetitive EU producers of chicken.
“They sell these brown pieces of chicken at below average costs, and that’s called dumping.”
In addition, he says that the march intended to increase discussion about the viability of South African markets producing its own poultry.
Masemola said that while the union is pleased that government has established a task team to investigate alternatives, which he asserts appears to be “up to its task”, time is running out as the crises persists.
“We will continue to call on retailers in this country to come to the party and to stop importing the waste that comes from the EU, but also to appeal to the poor to, if they can, avoid buying from these companies,” he continued. VOC