A shipment of American chicken leg quarters, presumably some from Georgia, arrived in South Africa Feb. 19 after the resolution of a trade fight that had all but blockaded the birds from the continent’s second largest economy for 15 years. South Africa imposed anti-dumping duties on bone-in U.S. chicken in 2000, stopping short of banning its importation but effectively closing off the market of 50 million people by making it cost prohibitive.
Last year, President Barack Obama threatened to withhold preferential trade benefits for South Africa under the African Growth and Opportunity Act if the duties weren’t addressed by March 15.
A deal to allow in an annual quota of 65,000 metric tons was drafted last year by the Stone Mountain-based USA Poultry and Egg Export Council and the South African Poultry Association and was later signed by both governments.
While it’s compromise, that’s still a lot of chicken, and since Georgia is the top poultry producer in the U.S., farms in the state are likely to benefit from the reopening of a substantial market, said Toby Moore, a USAPEEC spokesman.
“The quota is not insignificant, and would make South Africa our 13th largest chicken market in 2015 volume, roughly the same as Kazakhstan. But, even though it was a down year, total U.S. chicken exports last year were about 2.9 million metric tons. Or, to look at it another way, exports of 65,000 tons to South Africa would roughly be a little under 10 percent of our export volume last year to Mexico, which was more than 666,000 tons.”
The council’s president, Jim Sumner, said in a news release that it expects quotas to be met and that more shipments are on the water at the moment.
USAPEEC’s representative in South Africa, Zelda Sharp, is planning the “mother of all brais” (South African traditional barbecues) with the U.S. embassy in Pretoria to celebrate.
While a strong proponent of Africa’s growth and development, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., early last year helped lead the fight to threaten the removal of duty preferences for South Africa under AGOA, which was reauthorized last May.