* Problems compounded by drought-driven feed cost inflation
* Domestic poultry industry expects 4,000 job losses this
* Imports mainly from the EU, Brazil and United States
By Tanisha Heiberg
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 2 South Africa's poultry
industry is battling for survival in the face of stiff price
competition from producers in Brazil, the European Union and the
United States, as well as the worst drought in a century, the
industry association said.
The June scrapping of 15 years of punitive duties on U.S.
chicken imports opened the door to 65,000 tonnes a year, adding
to products from the EU and Brazil.
Though Africa's most industrialised country consumes the
most chicken on the continent and local producers cannot keep up
with rising demand, many are facing the threat of closure
because of the an import-driven price war, South African Poultry
Association (SAPA) Chief Executive Kevin Lovell told Reuters.
"This year alone, more than 1,000 jobs have been lost and we
are expecting that up to 4,000 more will be lost by the end of
this year," Lovell said.
About a dozen smaller producers have closed or been sold, he
Domestic producers have long cried foul over cheap imports
by overseas companies dumping bone-in portions, popular locally
but generally considered undesirable by consumers in the U.S.
Other industry officials told Reuters that imported chicken
costs much less than local produce, though the prices on
supermarket shelves are the same.
"At the factory gate level it (the price difference) is
substantial," Lovell said.
Leading South African producer Astral, based near
Pretoria, has said that it had to cut jobs because of the record
level of imports and rising feed costs as the region has been
ravaged by drought.
South African crop planting, including yellow maize used in
poultry feed, were hit hard by the drought, stoking inflation.
Poultry imports for the first half of 2016 totalled 288,081
tonnes, with the EU accounting for 45.5 percent and Brazil
contributing 43.2, the SAPA said. The remainder was mostly
imported from the United States.
RCL Foods on Tuesday reported a 12.2 percent drop
in full year profit, blaming an over-supplied domestic market
and high feed prices.
"We are not enjoying a very level playing field in that
space, so pricing is under a lot of pressure and feed costs are
driven by the drought," said financial director, Rob Field.
(Editing by James Macharia and David Goodman)