SA is one of the most protectionist countries when it comes to poultry and has become "masters" at using anti-dumping as a method of keeping out foreign products, says the head of the world's poultry organisation.
The attack by International Poultry Council president James Sumner was made on Wednesday during a presentation at the biannual congress of the Brazilian Association for Animal Protein, which has brought together representatives from the poultry and pork industry, governments and industry associations.
Sumner is also head of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, which was instrumental in forcing SA to accept a 65,000 tonne quota of bone-in chicken imports from the US free of onerous tariffs as a condition of SA's continued participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
Brazil successfully applied to the World Trade Organisation in 2013 against anti-dumping measures imposed on its chicken imports by SA. Sumner said the US and Brazil - the world's two largest exporters of chicken which together produce 62.4% of global chicken exports - had worked together "to address unfair trade restrictions in SA".
The domestic industry has justified its stance against chicken imports on the grounds that it is fighting against dumping and is trying to protect the local industry from unfair competition. The South African International Trade Administration Commission has been investigating whether to increase the 13.9% tariff on European bone-in chicken imports which was imposed in December 2016 in a bid to block the influx of European chicken.
Sumner told delegates SA had become one of the world's most protectionist countries. "They do not want competition from anywhere, whether it be from the EU or the US.
"They have become masters in using antidumping as a method of keeping out foreign products and protecting their own industry. The policies that they have adopted are at complete odds with rulings of the World Trade Organisation."
It was a matter of great concern, Sumner said. The US had managed "to put SA somewhat in its place" by using Agoa, he said.
"They really do not follow World Trade Organisation guidelines, they write their own guidelines and this is a disservice to the South African consumers the way they protect themselves from the rest of the world. Poultry could be much more affordable in SA where there is certainly a big poverty problem," Sumner said.
SA is the fifth-largest importer of chicken worldwide after Japan, Hong Kong, Mexico and China. SA is also the fourth-largest consumer of chicken per capita in the world - higher even than India and China, though total consumption in these countries is very high.
SA is the sixth-biggest export market for Brazil and the ninth-biggest for the US.