CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa raised tariffs on Monday for five types of imported chicken to protect local producers from what they say is a flood of foreign imports that are threatening thousands of jobs in Africa's largest economy.
The increase in tariffs, in one case to the maximum 82 percent allowed by global trade rules, comes after a sharp drop in poultry production in South Africa since 2010 against a sharp rise in imports.
"The level of the tariff increases strikes an appropriate balance in limiting the price-raising effects on poor households while ensuring that domestic producers are placed on an improved competitive footing as compared to their foreign counterparts," Trade Minister Rob Davies said.
The sliding-scale increases, which come into effect immediately, should ensure a reasonable profit for producers and still encourage investment in a sector employing around 100,000 people, he added.
"Aside from whole chicken that constitutes less than 1 percent of total poultry imports over the last 12 months and is a more expensive poultry product, the overall average percentage point tariff increase is 8.75," Davies said.
He denied that the new tariff regime was directed at Brazil, which made an official complaint to the World Trade Organisation last year challenging anti-dumping measures imposed by Pretoria on Brazilian chicken imports.
Poultry farmers said the help was not enough, and that thousands of jobs could go if the industry continued to suffer.
"We remain concerned that this is insufficient to stem the massive amount of imports reaching our shores," said Kevin Lovell, head of the South African Poultry Association which initiated the demand for higher tariffs.