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U.S. chicken imports to South Africa were recently resumed after nearly 17 years out of the market. In 2000, South Africa imposed prohibitive duties on imports of U.S. bone-in chicken cuts, effectively closing the door on its market to U.S. product. However, in 2015, the Africa’s Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) agreement was extended with South Africa reopening its markets to U.S chicken, beef and pork.

AGOA aims to promote a free-market system, expanding U.S – African trade and investment and stimulating economic growth.

It provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for almost all products exported from more than 40 eligible sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, including South Africa.

AGOA covers over 7,000 products, giving African and South African producers duty-free access to U.S. buyers, and at the same time giving U.S. firms new opportunities for investment and partnerships in Africa. In addition to manufactured products, major South African agricultural exports under AGOA recent years include citrus fruits and concentrated juices, tobacco, essential oil of lemon, vegetable seeds and wine.

In terms of the agreement, the South African Government has limited the amount of chicken that can be imported to the country, and U.S. chicken imports currently contribute less than 3% of total chicken sales in South Africa. This means the vast majority of chicken sold in South Africa is produced locally and the impact of imports on local sales should be minimal.

In addition, chicken imports are subject to import tariffs designed to support South African poultry producers. A significant 82% tariff is imposed on whole birds imported from the U.S. Import tariffs on carcasses are now 31%; boneless cuts 12%; offal 30%; and bone-in portions 37%. This means imported chicken products cannot undercut the costs of locally produced products in such a way that they impact their business.

U.S. producers currently focus on exporting bone-in portions to South Africa. These portions are in no way inferior. In fact, they are products from the same high quality chickens sold into the U.S. domestic market and into other export markets around the world.

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In all markets, international trade stimulates competition and allows consumers to benefit from a range of choices.

In the poultry industry, which can be subject to risks such as drought and Avian Influenza, supplies from multiple regions supports food security and reduce the risk of shortages.

South Africa has long been a net importer of poultry and other protein, since domestic production cannot meet the demands of a rapidly growing market.

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Thriving economies result in more jobs, not less. Imported goods help drive market choice and competition and offer new opportunities to local importers, distributors and retailers, all of whom create employment.

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The term ‘dumping’ has been used in reference to poultry products imported into South Africa recently, potentially giving rise to misunderstandings and concerns about food safety and unfair business practices.

Dumping does not mean the sale of inferior products. Dumping is an anti-competitive practice in which products are sold to other markets at a lower price than they are produced and/or sold in the markets where they are produced.

In the case of chicken, various cuts of the same bird have different values – premium breast meat is sold at a higher price than offal, for example. Therefore, the bone-in quarters sold in South Africa may appear to come at a lower price when compared with the price of the whole bird or breasts sold in the U.S. However, when equivalent cuts are compared, the price of U.S. chicken sold to importers in South Africa is the same as the wholesale price of chicken sold to distributors in the U.S.

U.S. poultry producers are able to control production costs (and so the cost of products sold to market) through optimal feeding and farming of birds, tight quality controls that minimise production losses, and through advanced process automation that reduces the cost of production.

Through heavy investment in the most advanced farming and processing practices and stringent legislation controlling quality, the U.S. is able to produce wholesome chicken products at competitive prices.

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) regulate and investigate dumping allegations in terms of the International Trade Administration Act, 2002 (Act 71 of 2002) (the ITA Act), and the Anti-Dumping Regulations (ADR) read with the WTO Agreement on Implementation of Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (the Anti-Dumping Agreement).

The ITA Act authorises SACU to investigate dumping in or to the common area of SACU, which consists of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, while the ADR contains additional substantive and procedural guidelines. Copies of the ITA Act and the ADR are available from the Commission offices, or at www.itac.org.za

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All U.S. poultry meat offered for export is inspected and approved by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA is regarded as the highest authority on food inspection in the world. A USDA stamp signifies that a poultry product is of the highest quality and eligible for export.

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U.S. poultry processing plants are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized for an entire eight-hour shift, every day. All plants are inspected for cleanliness before operations begin, and are washed during and after operations.

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Like all fresh foods, poultry carry a natural microflora that may contain organisms potentially harmful to humans. Food safety is a top concern to the U.S. poultry industry, and companies work hard and spend millions of dollars each year to improve the safety of their products. In addition, proper handling, cooking and storage is essential to maximizing food safety.

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All U.S. produced chickens and turkeys are hormone-free. No artificial or added hormones are allowed by the U.S. government in the production of U.S. poultry. Steroids are similarly banned. Therefore, hormone-free isn't a necessary label to use, because all U.S. poultry is natural and without hormones.

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"Free range" indicates a production unit where chickens are allowed to forage in an outdoor area in search of insects and other types of "range" food. There is, however, no official federal government definition of "free range" and the USDA approves label claims on a case-by-case basis.

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Each package of fresh chicken, for example, carries a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) safe handling and cooking message. Poultry, like all fresh meats, are perishable and should be handled with care to maintain top quality. To maximize food quality and safety, follow these tips:
1. Put fresh poultry and eggs in your shopping basket last, just before you leave the store.
2. Refrigerate immediately upon reaching home, never leave poultry out at room temperature.

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Fresh poultry may be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days and in the freezer for six to nine months; cooked poultry may remain in the refrigerator for three to four days and in the freezer for four months.

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The U.S. National Chicken Council says:

A serving of 100 grams of cooked skinless, boneless breast has only one gram of saturated fat and less than four grams of total fat.

100 grams of skinless, boneless breast has 31 grams of protein – more than half the recommended daily allowance of 46 grams of protein for an adult female.

Chicken is naturally low in sodium. Skinless, boneless chicken has only 74 milligrams of sodium per three and a half ounce (100 gram) portion.

Chicken is versatile in the kitchen – Hot or cold, it’s an easy ingredient in many ready-in-a-minute meals. Chicken is also a common ingredient among international cuisines, and readily absorbs the flavors of seasonings and spices. When your recipe calls for a meat that is too costly or not available, chicken is always a reliable substitute.

When cooking plenty of food to have leftovers for future meals, nothing beats the ease of chicken. Leftover grilled or baked chicken prepared early in the week easily transitions to healthy meals such as cold chicken served over salad, or chicken salad mixed with reduced fat mayonnaise.

Under the U.S. government’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010”, consumers should include 5.5 ounces of protein from poultry, meat, nuts and beans in the daily diet, based on an average consumption of 2,000 calories per day. Therefore, a single three-ounce serving of chicken (an amount about the size of a deck of cards) provides more than half the protein recommended for a typical day.

Chicken is also a good source of niacin (vitamin B3), which aids in metabolism; vitamin B6, important to immune system and blood sugar level maintenance; biotin (vitamin B7), which helps cell growth; and vitamin B12, which is involved in nerve cell and red blood cell maintenance. Chicken also contains iron (oxygen transport and cell growth) and zinc (immune system functioning and DNA synthesis).

The guidelines also recommend that a person consuming 2,000 calories per day should eat no more than twenty grams of saturated fat. Since skinless chicken breast has only one gram of saturated fat per 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving, chicken offers an easy way to eat protein while keeping consumption of saturated fat to a minimum.

Skinless breast is both the portion of the chicken lowest in fat and the most popular with consumers. In surveys, consumers express preference for skinless, boneless breast by a margin of two to one over other chicken parts. Boneless breast is popular at retail grocery stores and is also the major ingredient in a host of prepared products. It is also present on restaurant menus ranging from fast food to fine dining.

Dark meat has a somewhat higher fat content than white meat and contains more connective tissue than white meat. Its fat content, however, is an advantage in some circumstances. For example, dark meat holds up to the intense heat of outdoor grilling because some of the fat and collagen melts during the cooking process and keeps the meat moist.

Gram for gram, the highest-fat portion of the chicken is the skin, with 41 grams of fat (and 454 calories) per 100 grams. However, only a small portion of skin is normally consumed (except in dishes such as “wings”), and removing skin will eliminate those calories. The skin can be left on during cooking without adding calories to the meat. Unlike beef or pork, chicken has little separable fat. A whole chicken will have a fat pad near the opening to the cavity which can be removed if desired. Otherwise, fat in the chicken is largely in the meat itself (especially dark meat); attached to the underside of the skin; or located between the skin and the muscle.

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