Eliminate VAT on some chicken products or face more stunting, starvation – lobby group

The FairPlay movement wants VAT to be lifted on some chicken products.

  • FairPlay movement founder Francois Baird says rising food prices mean poor South Africans who often turn to chicken as a cheap source of protein will no longer be able to afford it.
  • South Africans pay VAT on frozen portions, crow’s feet, gizzards and livers.
  • Baird argues that low-income South Africans, especially those in rural areas, should not have to pay VAT on products such as whole chicken and frozen mixed portions.

For the past four years, the FairPlay Movement trading group has called for the scrapping of value added tax (VAT) on certain chicken products, and now founder Francois Baird says this is more important than ever.

Baird, who founded FairPlay in 2016, says rising food prices mean poor South Africans – who often turn to chicken as a cheap source of protein – will no longer be able to afford it.

“The whole world is seeing food inflation, the only way to help the poor in South Africa is to remove the VAT on some portions of chicken so they can have access to protein,” Baird explains.

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In March 2022, the cost of the average household food basket increased by R94.39 to R4 450.09 from R4 355.70, according to the latest household convenience index of the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD).

The index, which focuses on 44 food products, found that 22 of the items are subject to VAT. And chicken products – consisting of frozen portions, crow’s feet, gizzards and livers – are on the VAT list.

The hikes occur against the backdrop of the impact of Covid-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which raises concerns that food price hikes are far from over.

To cushion the blow, Baird argues that low-income South Africans, especially those in rural areas, should not have to pay VAT on products such as whole chicken and frozen mixed portions. And that is feasible, as this would only apply to certain products.

For example, FairPlay does not ask for a VAT increase for cooked chicken because it is consumed by people who are financially better off.

“So, we are trying to be very responsible and cautious and to make it accessible … [and] take away VAT on chicken, “he says.

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According to Baird, it’s something the government can afford to do, since it’s not a total tax removal on all chicken products.

The FairPlay sentiment is shared by the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE), whose CEO Paul Matthew cited the removal of VAT on chicken as one of the solutions to relieve consumer pressure.

But for Baird, ensuring consumers have access to chicken is also rooted in ensuring children have access to protein from an early age.

He adds that South Africa’s stunting rate is the highest in history, affecting 27% of children under the age of five.

Baird also adds that the movement is also looking to lift VAT on chicken feed, as rising costs also affect consumers across the board.

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