The government has been guilty of underestimating the importance of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the way this Act has opened up new markets for South Africa agricultural products in the United States, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“In the 15 years AGOA has been in force we have built up agricultural exports to the US to R1.9 billion a year,” said Ms Janine Myburgh, President of the Chamber.
“Most of this is for wine, citrus, fruit and macadamia nuts. Western Cape share of this exports is nearly R800 000 a year so we have a lot to lose if things go wrong. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk.”
She said the problem seemed to be non-tariff barriers and technical arguments about the risk of importing diseases. It was difficult to tell how much was of valid concern and how much related to tactics and negotiation pressure.
“What is clear, however, is the extraordinary influence of the poultry industry and the way it has been able to lobby successfully for tariff and other protection measures. This is an industry in which many producers inject 30 % and more salt water into frozen chicken pieces and is still doing so despite a consumer outcry and Government promises to outlaw or regulate the practice. Something is very wrong,” Myburgh said.
“How is it possible that our fruit, wine and citrus industries can successfully compete on world markets but our poultry industry cannot do so and needs special protection even if this opens up risks to other agricultural exports?” she asked.