South African poultry and the SADC-EU EPA
Although the South African poultry industry is important in the broader agro-processing sector (especially in terms of employment) it is facing various difficulties. Even before the current Avian Flu outbreak the poultry industry has been plagued by high input costs, an increase in competitive imports (due to increasing domestic demand exceeding domestic supply) and job losses due to the closure of several production plants. This led to the establishment of a Poultry Task Team which has identified, inter alia, new export market opportunities to assist the ailing industry. Prior to the Avian Flu outbreak South Africa exported hardly any poultry products beyond Africa’s borders due to strict standards in various export markets prohibiting the entry of South African poultry products. Although the EU has been identified as a potential export destination, strict Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) conditions for meat and meat products (including poultry products) need to be complied with to gain market access.
Although the SADC EPA states can export poultry meat and poultry products to the EU market free of duty in accordance with the EPA, SPS conditions have remained unchanged. These SPS conditions are found in EC Regulations which are applicable to all poultry meat imports. Generally, poultry product imports can only be sourced from authorised establishments from countries listed as eligible, and products must be accompanied by appropriate certification and enter through a Border Inspection Post where inspections are carried out to ensure compliance with all the relevant requirements. Countries will only be listed as eligible by the EC if there is a competent veterinary authority responsible for the entire food value chain; and the animal health standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health are fulfilled. The competent authority must have laboratories which comply with certain requirements and must guarantee that the relevant public health requirements are met. An establishment (i.e. abattoirs, processing plants and pack houses) will only be approved after inspection (and subsequent regular inspections) by the competent authority which guarantees that the EU requirements are satisfied; these include the fulfilment of animal health standards and a monitoring system for residues of veterinary medicine, pesticides and contaminants.
Currently, none of the SADC EPA states are listed as eligible for poultry exports to the EU. The EPA did not make any changes to the current SPS requirements in place; the SADC EPA states need to fulfil these conditions if they want to take advantage of the duty-free access to the EU markets. A positive development is that Annex VI of the EPA lists priority sectors which have been earmarked to ‘cooperate in strengthening regional integration and specifically SADC EPA States’ on matters concerning sanitary and phytosanitary measures (‘SPS measures’) and to address problems arising from SPS measures’ (Article 60 (b)). Poultry products are listed as a priority sector for cooperation to ensure harmonisation among the SADC EPA states. ‘Other meat products’ are included in Annex VI B for cooperation on SPS issues pertaining to exports to the EU. The extent and detail of the cooperation is yet to be determined. If capacity building and technical assistance are provided to the SADC EPA member states to improve their capacity to meet the import conditions the opportunity exists for poultry producing countries to export poultry products to the EU in future.
Implications of Brexit
The UK can potentially be a new destination market for SACU poultry producers. However, realising the export potential will depend on certain factors:
Capacity of SACU poultry producers to sufficiently increase supply to facilitate exports. The SACU countries are poultry deficit countries, domestic supply does not satisfy increasing domestic demand. Supply side constraints need to be addressed since high input costs and inefficient production technologies will hamper the ability of SACU poultry products to be competitive in the UK market.
SACU exporters will compete with poultry products from other exporting countries such as Brazil and Thailand in the UK market. Currently SACU has duty free access, while poultry from Brazil and Thailand are imported under a quota system with varying applicable tariffs. If SACU can address supply-side constraints and retain duty-free access, ceteris paribus, the UK market can be an attractive export destination for poultry products, contingent upon meet the SPS requirements.
The SPS regime the UK will adopt for poultry imports will determine the viability of the market for SACU exports. If the UK SPS regime stays unchanged from the current EU regime, Brazil and Thailand have a distinct advantage as their exports already comply with current SPS requirements. SACU producers need to develop the capacity to comply with these conditions if they want to export to the UK, just as they do, to export to the EU.
 European Commission. https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/sanco/traces/output/non_eu_listsPerCountry_en.htm