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South Africa opens doors to US chicken imports

South Africa will end punitive duties on US chicken and renew imports, initially 65,000 tonnes a year.

FILE: South Africa imposes “anti-dumping” duties of above 100 percent on certain chicken products. Picture: sxc.hu.

WASHINGTON - South Africa will end punitive duties on US chicken and renew imports, initially 65,000 tonnes a year, under an agreement reached by the two countries, Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, said on Saturday.

South Africa imposes "anti-dumping" duties of above 100 percent on certain chicken products and industry groups said removing those import barriers opened a market which had been closed for the last 15 years.

The deal was "within the tolerance of the (South African poultry) industry and is something we can all live with," Davies told Reuters in a telephone conversation from Paris, where the deal was concluded.

The agreement, which would see the US emerge as one of the top poultry exporters to Africa's most advanced economy, should help smooth the passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) currently before American lawmakers.

"We believe we have placed ourselves in a much stronger position," Davies said.

AGOA is a non-reciprocal trade preference initiative providing duty-free treatment to US imports of certain products from eligible sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries.

US Senators Johnny Isakson, a Republican, and Chris Coons, a Democrat, who have been pushing for removal of duties and threatened to block AGOA's passage unless market access was increased, said final details should be thrashed out by the end of the month.

That should clear the way for poultry shipments to the South African market before the end of 2015, they said, cheering exporters.

"We look forward to working with our government and the South Africans on implementing this important agreement," the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council and the National Chicken Council said in a statement.

One of the signature dishes of South Africa's poor townships is a stew called "walkie talkies," made from chicken heads and feet. These parts are not popular in the United States and US exporters could easily undercut local producers without the duties.

After a meeting in Paris, US and South African officials had also agreed on actions to resolve issues relating to poultry, pork and beef exports, US Trade Representative's office said on Friday.

South Africans consume more chicken than people in any other African country. Local producers have struggled to keep up with rising demand.

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