South African import bans continue to pork, poultry producers' dismay

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2015 - South Africa is keeping its door shut to American poultry and pork imports, frustrating U.S. producers who say it isn't living up to the requirements of a preferential trade law.

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South Africa has trade restrictions on pork and a blanket ban on chicken because of various viruses, including trichinella and avian influenza. South Africa agreed in Paris this June both to ease its disease-related bans, as well as its anti-dumping duties that were imposed on U.S. chicken 15 years ago.

A representative of the National Pork Producers Council said at a hearing organized by the U.S. Trade Representative on Friday that South Africa should lose its right to ship duty-free exports to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which was enacted in 2000 and recently renewed.

The barriers to U.S. pork imports are “aggressive,” “harsh and unjustifiable,” said Courtney Knupp, NPPC's deputy director of international trade policy, sanitary and technical issues. They have “no scientific justification,” Knupp continued, and have kept U.S. pork out of the country since 2013.

South Africa says its blanket ban on U.S. poultry imports is based on food security threats posed by recent Midwest outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

South Africa's trade ambassador, Mninwa Mahlangu, told a panel of representatives from the Agriculture, State and Treasury departments as well as USTR that he was “very satisfied” with his country's progress toward lifting trade barriers on U.S. pork and poultry imports.

South Africa “will adhere to the letter and spirit of AGOA,” he said.

But the U.S. officials weren't convinced that South Africa is moving quickly enough to meet its requirements under AGOA. For instance, South Africa has said in writing it intends to regionalize its blanket ban on U.S. poultry imports, but the country's veterinary officials indicated to USTR there had been no push to make such a change.

USDA has been pushing South Africa and other countries to lift their blanket bans on U.S. poultry and allow imports from areas of the United States that the virus hasn't affected. There is relatively little production of broiler chickens in Midwestern states that have been hit by the avian flu.

Mahlangu acknowledged that the flu outbreaks have slowed over the summer, and he said South Africa would consider dropping the ban if the U.S. went for another 6 weeks without a new outbreak.

Michael Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said that there could be another outbreak this fall and that South Africa would continue imposing their total ban.

“The ball is in South Africa's court,” Brown continued. “The onus for eliminating the duties on the agreed 65,000 metric tons, for developing quota administration rules, and for establishing conducive sanitary rules are on South Africa.”

Jim Sumner, the president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, told Agri-Pulse that he anticipated the poultry bans would be lifted in time for shipments to go out early next year.

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