Poultry Import Restrictions Under Attack

MAJOR players in the South African poultry industry are asking Namibia’s High Court to set aside the restrictions on the importation of poultry products that the Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, announced in April last year.

With a review application that the South African Poultry Association and five companies involved in the South African poultry industry lodged against the Minister of Trade and Industry, the government and Namib Poultry Industries in the Windhoek High Court still in its early stages, preliminary skirmishes in the case have started to crop up in court.

No date has been set yet for the hearing of the main case, in which the South African Poultry Association and South African poultry exporters Crown Chickens, Supreme Poultry, Rainbow Farms, Astral Foods and Afgri Poultry are asking the High Court to review and set aside the import restrictions on poultry products announced in the Government Gazette on 5 April last year.

Schlettwein announced the import restrictions in terms of the Import and Export Control Act.

He announced that the importation of poultry products into Namibia would only be allowed in accordance with an import permit issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and that no more than 900 tons of poultry products may be imported into Namibia per month.

The import restrictions provide protection to the Namibian poultry industry, which had been complaining that it was battling to compete with more established producers of poultry products that have been able to market their products in Namibia at lower prices than Namibian producers – mainly Namib Poultry Industries – could match without suffering financial losses.

In one of the preliminary brushes between the parties involved in the case, Judge Harald Geier postponed an urgent application by the South African Poultry Association and the five South African poultry exporters to an undetermined date yesterday.

The postponement was accompanied by an agreement by the law firm representing Namib Poultry Industries, Theunissen, Louw amp Partners, to treat ten files with documents coming from the association and the South African companies as confidential, not to disclose it to Namib Poultry Industries or anyone else, and to use the documents only for the pending review application.

The five poultry exporters and the association initially wanted the court to order Theunissen, Louw amp Partners to hand the ten files to the registrar of the High Court for safekeeping and not to disclose any of the documents or information in it to Namib Poultry Industries or anyone else.

The files were handed over to Theunissen, Louw amp Partners after Namib Poultry Industries had filed an application in which it asked to be provided with documentation that it claimed was relevant to the main case.

According to lawyer Ian Petherbridge, who is representing the South African companies and the South African Poultry Association, the documents contain confidential trade information, were meant only for the use of the lawyers of Namib Poultry Industries, and were not to be disclosed to the Namibian company.

With the urgent application about the documentation postponed, another preliminary hearing in the main case – about the provision of a record of the decision that Schlettwein took when the import restrictions were approved – is due to take place in the Windhoek High Court on 29 September.

Beatrix de Jager and senior counsel Andrew Corbett, instructed by Martin Strydom, represented the South African companies and the association in court yesterday. The other parties in the case were not represented.

Source : The Namibian

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