I was only only once condemned by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, when I was on-air and told poultry producers Rainbow Chickens to “cluck off.” They had repeatedly refused me an interview, and I was not happy. It wasn’t the most elegant phrase, but they needed a roasting.
There are a lot of good things to be said about the local chicken producers. They create jobs, they stimulate the rural economy, they provide food. All good stuff.
However, I do find it a little worrying that, as with the SA auto industry, the corporate chicken flock has such a powerful voice.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is a well-intentioned, bright bloke. But when he gets egged on by the chicken industry, and they get their claws into him, he tends to give in too easily to them. Hence all the anti-dumping measures which have been imposed, and which are in constant danger of being boosted.
I fully understand how an efficient, world-competitive industry in any sector will feel it hard when ridiculously low-cost imports are flooding the market, threatening local jobs and businesses. Genuine dumping is dangerous.
Of course they will cluck. Their feathers will be ruffled and silly journalists will rush to their keyboards to go wild with bad puns.
But – it is a massive but – about the consumer?
As any good economist will tell you, or I will in their absence, the inevitable consequence of trade protection is that harm will be done to the consumer. Imports will be more expensive, prices will go up, and – in this case – chicken will cost more. And chicken is an important protein source in SA, expecially for the least-affluent consumers.
Having said all this, there are times when irony knocks on the door, as it has with the current wave of bird flu.
What do we see now? Headlines saying that the cost of chicken will go up even more. Because local producers will be unable to sell diseased chicken. Anti-dumping measures do not keep flu at bay.
So what will fill the gap? How about some imports?
Having battled to keep them out of our market, we may now need to bring more chicken imports into our country from other countries which we only recently told to get stuffed.
Without our local producers having a leg (or thigh or wing) to stand on.
Talk about clucking irony.