The South African poultry industry has had a profoundly challenging couple of years – having to operate in an environment of failing municipalities, power cuts issues, rising imports, higher feed prices, and avian influenza spread, amongst other challenges.

As an industry that accounts for a considerable share of the South African agricultural economy and a vital source of protein, one would imagine that the broader national effort would be at helping to support its recovery.

Indeed, the South African government has supported the industry over the years through trade policy. The  International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) has played a pivotal role in cushioning the poultry industry against unfair competition or dumping of poultry products.

Furthermore, the government launched a South African Poultry Master Plan in 2019 to boost inclusive growth in this industry.

COVID-19 and the growth constraining factors I highlighted above are some aspects that have slowed the implementation of the Master Plan, as the industry has almost been operating in “crisis” mode in its recovery path.

Still, the challenges that constrain inclusive growth in the industry persist. The associated costs of these broad problems also limit the participation of small players. If we care about inclusive growth of the poultry industry, we should focus on resolving issues of failing municipalities, power cuts,  and biosecurity, amongst other challenges.

Thus, I was puzzled by the idea that there is a Competition Commission inquiry into the poultry industry now, while the factors distorting progress in the industry remain unresolved.

We should first resolve these growth-inhibiting issues, assess if the pace of inclusion of small players won’t take off, and then think of these enquiries at such a stage.

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