Need to restore differentiation in trade rules in support of structural transformation in Africa

Trade Minister Davies reflections on South Africa’s experience of trade liberalisation, which, with hindsight it is held, moved too rapidly for the countries capacity to adjust, potentially holds important lessons for ACP countries as they move towards the implementation of the EPAs concluded with the EU. It suggests ACP governments need to work together to ensure EPAs are interpreted and applied in a flexible and differentiated fashion, which places centre stage the structural economic transformation needs of ACP countries. This will need to be a central component of the forthcoming ACP-EU post-Cotonou negotiations, as well as on-going ACP Ministerial discussion on EPA implementation. Read more “Need to restore differentiation in trade rules in support of structural transformation in Africa”

Africa continues to grow as export destination EU poultry meat despite AI outbreaks

EU poultry meat exports to South Africa and Ghana rose 23.7% and 13.3% respectively in 2016, while exports to Benin fell 16%. Beyond these three main destinations EU exports of poultry meat to African ACP countries increased 4.9% in 2016. The debate continues in South Africa over the use of trade policy measures which it is alleged harm poor consumers, while enabling poultry companies to avoid addressing structural challenges. The South African government is looking at a combination of trade policy measures and support in addressing underlying competitiveness issues. However the issue of the structural surplus of ‘brown meat’ will need to be addressed, potentially through a structured ACP-EU dialogue aimed at promoting responsible patterns of trade in ‘brown meat’ which avoids undermining local ACP poultry production

The latest EC statistics on EU poultry exports in 2016 shows total EU poultry meat exports increased 8.3% compared to 2015. Once again the largest increase in extra-EU poultry meat exports in volume terms was to South Africa (+49,839 tonnes), an increase of 23.7%.

South Africa now takes 18.0% of total extra-EU poultry meat exports, almost 1 in every 5.5 tonnes of EU poultry meat exported beyond the EU’s borders. This is up from a mere 0.6% of extra EU poultry meat exports in 2009.(1) Despite outbreaks of Avian Influenza in EU member states which saw the introduction of import restrictions on some EU member states, 46,397 tonnes of EU poultry meat were still exported to South Africa between October and December 2016.

Exports to Benin, the EU’s second most important ACP destination were down 16% compared to 2016, (2) with this largely being attributable to depressed ‘import’ demand for poultry meat in neighbouring Nigeria and stricter Nigeria customs controls, implemented in an effort to curb the smuggling of rice, frozen poultry meat and second hand cars from Benin into Nigeria.

EU poultry meat exports to Ghana in contrast, were up 13.3% compared to 2016, (1) after short lived efforts to control poultry meat imports in 2014.(2)  This took EU export volumes to levels above the earlier high attained in 2013. However, it was reported in February 2016 that the government of Ghana was once again looking at adopting ‘a policy aiming to reduce poultry imports and improve local production’. This needs to be seen in a context where imports, mainly from the EU and the US now account for 58% of local poultry meat consumption and local producers only 42%. (3)

Overall in 2016 EU poultry meat exports to the 3 main ACP markets rose 8.9% compared to an overall increase in extra-EU poultry meat exports of 8.3%. These 3 main ACP destinations took 31.3% of total extra-EU poultry meat exports, up marginally from 31.2% in 2015. (1)  EU poultry meat exports to all other ACP African countries meanwhile increased 4.9% in 2016 compared to 2015.

The share of Sub-Saharan Africa in total EU poultry meat exports appears to be stabilising at around 47%, up from a share of 20.3% in 2009. Sub-Saharan African markets have thus more than doubled in importance as a destination for extra-EU poultry meat exports in the past 7 years, while total overall export volumes have more than tripled (up from 204,844 tonnes to 674,931 tonnes).

EU Poultry Meat Exports (0207): Top Destination 2015/2106 (tonnes)

2015 2016 % change
Total extra EU 1,331,506 1,442,683 +8.3%
South Africa 209,971 259,810 +23.7%
Benin 137,650 115,608 -16.0%
Ghana 67,154 76,126 +13.3%
Other ACP African countries 212,816 223,333 +4.9%
Main Non-ACP Main Destinations
Philippines 72,712 93,434 +28.4%
Hong Kong 99,851 121,770 +22.0%
Ukraine 66,151 82,644 +24.9%

Source: EC, Market Access Data Base,

Meanwhile the debate continues in South Africa on how best to respond to ever increasing imports of poultry meat, which are leading to retrenchments in the local poultry sector (see companion articles ‘Will South Africa’s introduction of poultry safeguard duties by challenged by the EC?’, 14 February 2017 and ‘EU frozen poultry meat exports to South Africa begin to bite’, 23 January 2017).

In a presentation to the South African Parliament the South African Department of Trade and Industry set out:

  • the importance of the poultry sector (48,000 ,direct jobs and 63,000 indirect jobs);
  • the growing consumer demand for poultry meat up to 2010 and the subsequent slow-down in demand growth;
  • the structural investment challenges faced, particularly in order to make full use of the chicken carcass;
  • the challenges arising from the drought and associated increases in feed costs;
  • an analysis of the competitive challenges faced, linked to rising domestic costs (up from R15/kg to R20/kg), the low cost of imported bone-in quarters (R15/kg from EU and US) and mechanically de-boned meat (R4.10/kg from Brazil) and trade distorting agricultural support and trade policies in OECD countries (notably the EU, where policy support is estimated as equivalent to 18% of poultry production costs);
  • the limited export opportunities for South African poultry meat arising from strict SPS measures in many potential markets;
  • the scale of the phenomenal increase in imports of poultry meat from the EU in recent years;
  • the potential respite for hard pressed South African poultry producers arising from the Avian Influenza outbreak in Europe.
  • the global structural surplus of ‘brown meat’ arising from different consumption patterns in developed countries compared to South Africa and the bad news this represents for developing country poultry producers. (4)

In a radio interview in January 2017, South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister had earlier called for an international initiative to address the structural surplus of ‘brown meat’. (5)

The South African governments’ use of trade policy measures has faced criticism in a paper commissioned by the retailer Shoprite. The analysis by the Econex consultancy, focused on the negative effects on consumer welfare of the South African governments’ use of safeguard duties in the poultry sector, with some of the poorest households in South Africa carrying the costs of government safeguard duties which target low cost poultry meat imports.

It argues that at root, the current South African poultry industry crisis is not a product of unfair trade practices (the normal cause for invoking safeguard measures), but rather a failure to address underlying competitiveness issue, which the long history of protectionist measures have simply enabled the local poultry industry to avoid addressing.  It argues there is no causal connection between the increased imports and the serious injury requirements for the invocation of safeguard measures. The Econex analysis therefore concludes the current crisis would be better address ‘through targeted industrial policy’ measures.

To a certain extent the South African government would appear to concur with the need for an industrial policy response as part of a multi-pronged strategy in the poultry sector.  While the areas for policy intervention are still under elaboration the South African government is exploring 6 inter-related areas of intervention:

  • addressing competitiveness issues by lowering input costs, upgrading technologies and improving the functioning of supply chains;
  • the provision of concessional finance for competitiveness related investments;
  • addressing the demand situation through preferential state procurement and dietary based promotion of poultry meat consumption;
  • providing support for export market development, in a context where only 1.4% of South Africa’s poultry meat production is exported;
  • supporting industry transformation via the creation of new opportunities for value creation and value addition across the supply chain for previously disadvantaged groups;
  • the use of trade policy measures, including tariff, non-tariff measures and SPS measures aimed at establishing equality of treatment between South African imports and exports of poultry meat.

(1) EC, Market Access Data Base
(2) Agritrade, ‘Review of Ghana’s poultry sector trade policy under way’, 22 June 2014
(3), ‘Ghana restricts poultry meat imports’, 22 February 2016
(4) DTI, ‘Summary challenges facing the SA poultry sector’,  Presentation to the Select Committee on Trade and International Relations , 1 February 2017
(5), ‘Minister Rob Davies in the UK to discuss Brexit and trade with SA’, 25 January 2017 9:36 AM
(6) Econex, ‘‘Safeguards in the South African poultry sector: an economic perspective’, Research Note 43, January 2017

Comments and Analysis

The suggestion that EU exports of poultry meat have no causal connection to the current crisis in the South African poultry sector (as implied in the econex analysis) is counter-intuitive.

The underlying reality is that, despite the slow-down in growth in South African poultry meat demand since 2010, imports of poultry meat from the EU have soared. Imports increased from a mere 5,138 tonnes in 2009 to a massive 259,810 tonnes in 2016.

This represented a shift in EU exports away from the Russian market (which was taking around 20% of total EU exports) towards South Africa. This was driven by two processes:

· the progressive introduction of Russian import restrictions which culminated in the closure of the Russian market to EU poultry meat; and

· the final removal of all tariff and non-tariff restraints on EU exports of poultry meat to South Africa, as a result of the implementation of measures negotiated as part of the EU-South African Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement.

The surge in EU poultry meat exports to South Africa which began in 2010 and continued in subsequent years, clearly had market effects which became progressively more pronounced over time.

EU Poultry Meat Exports to South Africa – heading 0207, tonnes (2009-2015)

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015  2016
South Africa 5,138 22,007 94,084 131,832 158,481 203,414 209,971 259,810
annual change +10.5% +328.3% +327.5% +40.1% +20.2% +28.4% +5% +45%
% total extra EU 0.6% 1.7% 6.7% 9.2% 11.1% 13.5% 15.8% 18.0%
Total EU Exports 885,289 1,124,301 1,265,872 1,274,794 1,268,956 1,330,487 1,331,506 1,442,683

The debate in South Africa highlights some of the contradictions and challenges other ACP governments face in formulating poultry sector trade policies. As with many ACP governments, the South African government finds itself on the horns of a dilemma. Chicken meat is a low priced source of protein increasingly in demand by urban consumers, who have an interest in securing cheap, safe poultry meat. Yet the structural surplus of low cost ‘brown meat’ means imports are available at such low prices they threaten to undermine domestic poultry production. Such a development gives rise to serious long term costs in terms of lost local employment opportunities in both the poultry sector and beyond.

This is a particularly serious issue in South Africa, where the poultry value chain is well developed and any poultry sector crisis would trigger ‘further de-industrialisation across the economy’ and generate serious employment losses in the maize and soya sectors. Yet this basic dilemma of balancing consumer and producer interests replicates itself across the ACP.

Getting to grips with the structural problems of the surplus of ‘brown meat’ at an international level as suggested by South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, potentially offers a way forward.  An ACP-EU dialogue on the responsible conduct of trade in residual ‘brown meat’ poultry cuts, could potentially offer a way forward which allows ACP governments to better balance consumer and producer interests.

Potentially this could pick up on the suggestion by the pan-European dairy company Arla, which has proposed the establishment of a stakeholder generated Code of Conduct to guide and promote responsible EU trade practices, which try to minimise adverse effects on local African/ACP producers (see companion article, ‘Arla’s Senegalese milk powder repackaging plant begins operations’, 23 January 2017).


Key Words: Poultry, EU South Africa, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana
Area for Posting: Poultry, Southern Africa, West Africa



USDA Highlights EU’s Continued Use of Protectionist Tools in the Agro-Food Sector


USDA highlights the EU’s continued use of protectionist trade tools in its agro-food sector. This boosts EU export competitiveness, which can harm ACP agricultural sectors (e.g. dairy and poultry sector development). EU practices contrasts sharply with EU policy prescriptions in an EPA context. This calls for the flexible interpretation and application of EPA commitments given the overriding importance of agriculture to livelihoods in many ACP countries. Read more “USDA Highlights EU’s Continued Use of Protectionist Tools in the Agro-Food Sector”

New scheduled air serives open up opportunities for expanded Ghanaian fresh fruit exports to EU


New scheduled airline services between Accra and Paris could open up new opportunities for high value horticultural exports from Ghana to France. However sustainable development of such opportunities will be critically influenced by the competitiveness of freight rates offered.  Given the history of price collusion among scheduled airline on European freight service routes, this is an area where the European Commission will need to maintain close scrutiny. Read more “New scheduled air serives open up opportunities for expanded Ghanaian fresh fruit exports to EU”

UK NGOs call for new gold standard UK unilateral preferential trade arrangement

UK NGOs are critical of proposals to transpose current EU reciprocal trade arrangements into bilateral UK trade deals with ACP countries. UK NGOs favour a new ‘gold standard’ of unilateral non-reciprocal trade preferences which extends beyond current such arrangements. However it is difficult to see how such non-reciprocal trade arrangements can be reconciled with the UK governments’ over-riding preoccupation with maintaining and expanding access for UK exporters to non-EU markets via bilateral UK free trade agreements Read more “UK NGOs call for new gold standard UK unilateral preferential trade arrangement”

What are the implications for ACP sugar producers of Tate & Lyle Sugars expectations on UK sugar sector policy post-Brexit?

Tate & Lyle Sugars continues to put pressure on the UK government to use Brexit to level the playing field between beet processors and cane sugar refiners,  by removing import duties on raw cane sugar. The adoption of such a UK sugar trade policy would carry serious consequences for ACP sugar exporters to the UK market, undermining their competitive position as suppliers to the UK market and driving many out of the UK market. Trilateral customs cooperation arrangements could however be put in place, on a transitional basis, to minimise disruption of current supply chains which serve EU27 markets through the UK, not only in the sugar sector but beyond. Read more “What are the implications for ACP sugar producers of Tate & Lyle Sugars expectations on UK sugar sector policy post-Brexit?”

What are the implications for the ACP of the UK’s formal application to leave the EU and the EU27s initial response?


The European Council has indicated it expects the UK to honour its international commitments entered into while the UK was part of the EU. However, it is unclear whether this also applies to the long standing preferential access enjoyed by ACP countries to the UK market under EU agreements dating back 42 years. The UK favours ‘grandfathering’ reciprocal preferences from day 1 of BREXIT, but this is likely to face challenges from WTO members.

The EU27s openness to ‘transitional arrangements’ could help ACP governments in lobbying for temporary arrangements which avoid any loss of ACP preferences on the UK market from 30 March 2019. It also offers scope for dialogue on avoiding disruption of ACP agro-food sector supply chains operating through the UK into EU27 markets (and visa-a-versa).

The agro-food sector is likely to be a particularly difficult area of UK/EU27 negotiations, with implications for ACP exporters which may need to be addressed both bilaterally (between the ACP and UK and between the ACP and EU27) and on a trilateral basis (ACP/UK/EU27). Read more “What are the implications for the ACP of the UK’s formal application to leave the EU and the EU27s initial response?”

The Belize potato market crisis: Sharing policy experience on sustaining local production in small ACP economies

The current crisis in the Belize potato sector is a problem common in many small ACP economies, where efforts are made to sustain and develop local horticulture production in the context of competing production from much larger neighbouring economies. A sharing of policy experience on how to effectively manage imports, so as to leave market space for local production  could usefully be shared across ACP countries. Namibia’s horticultural sector policy experience which has successfully used public policy tools to strengthen the functioning of local horticulture supply chains would appear to be particularly relevant for the Belize potato sector and beyond (with this horticulture  experience now being rolled out across all sectors of the Namibian economy via a Retail Sector Charter)
Read more “The Belize potato market crisis: Sharing policy experience on sustaining local production in small ACP economies”

Reconciling Ghana’s agricultural development plans with EPA commitments

The government of Ghana is looking to create 1.5 million new jobs in agriculture in the next 2 years. Calls have been made to direct bank financing into agricultural investments. Yet systemic weaknesses beyond the agricultural sector need to be addressed if sourcing of local agricultural products is to increase. Policy interventions may also be needed to strengthen the functioning of local agricultural supply chains, with policy experiences elsewhere in Africa potentially holding important lessons. Read more “Reconciling Ghana’s agricultural development plans with EPA commitments”

Capacity constraints and complexities of ‘grandfathering’  highlighted by Parliament Report

There is a lack clarity on the legal possibilities for ‘grandfathering’ existing reciprocal preferential trade arrangements into bilateral deals with the UK. There are also serious human resource capacity constraints on the UK governments ability to simultaneously negotiate more than a handful of free trade area agreements. This is likely to require a prioritisation of UK FTA negotiations, with smaller ACP countries potentially being left out in the cold. This suggest a need for a coordinated ACP initiative to establish a joint ACP-DIT working group to explore

a) the establishment of transitional unilateral arrangements to prevent any disruption of current ACP access to the UK market and

b) simplified modalities for refitting existing EPAs into bilateral trade agreements with the UK, including the addition of a range of necessary ‘EPA+’ elements. Read more “Capacity constraints and complexities of ‘grandfathering’  highlighted by Parliament Report”