Give us our daily chicken

10 October 2013

THE poor just can’t catch a break, can they? They face a seemingly never-ending onslaught of aggressors that conspire to deepen their poverty. If it’s not widespread unemployment, then it is drought, flood, spiralling food and transport costs or simply homelessness.


With their malnourished bodies already racked by hunger, someone comes along and kicks them in the stomach, bringing them to their knees and worsening their suffering.

This seems the case with the wonderfully progressive sounding term Infant Industry Protection (IPP).

In recent months, the price of chicken has skyrocketed by anything between 40 to 66 percent and even 70 percent depending on whether one buys a 1.5 kg or 2 kg pack.

This has all happened in the name of Infant Industry Protection.

The Namibia Consumer Trust recently pointed out that chicken offers the cheapest form of protein to the poor and their best chance of a wholesome, nutritious meal. Chicken is the poor person’s meat!

IPP aims to protect local industries from unfair foreign competition in their early stages to create employment and economic growth within the country through import substitution.

In principle, this sounds like a noble and worthy cause that any proud Namibian would support.

Namib Poultry Industries (a subsidiary of Namib Mills), the country’s only large-scale producer of broilers and the main beneficiary of IPP, says it has created 650 badly needed jobs for unemployed Namibians.

This, however, raises a very important question.

Why should one poor person have to pay the price of creating employment for another poor person?

Why do we rather not make rich people pay the price of creating jobs for poor people?

This is utter madness. It just doesn’t make sense to make poor people poorer than they already are just to help another poor person.

We should not necessarily blame Namib Poultry Industries (NPI) for this appalling state of affairs.

Our Government, however, has to carry some of the blame, simply for slavishly kowtowing to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) international trade regime and the New World Order.

Put very simply the WTO prohibits countries from using tariffs, subsidies or non-tariff barriers to protect their domestic industries.

This completely ignores the fact not all countries have reached the same level of economic development and one cannot therefore treat them equally.

Developed countries have subsidised their industries and used protectionist barriers for over a century.

Many of their industries are now highly developed and efficient and they have reached the point where they no longer need protection.

Knowing this, the WTO suddenly changed the rulebook.

It decided it would no longer allow any country to use such measures – even those that had only just started their push towards economic development.

Nevertheless, they blatantly continue to subsidise industries where developing countries can compete on an equal footing, e.g. agriculture, to ensure poor countries have no chance of making a livelihood.

If this country wants to progress economically, it cannot agree to wholesale adoption of every single WTO rule.

We have to use every means possible to further our own economic interests, including if necessary non-tariff barriers or subsidies.

Botswana and many other countries in SADC use non-tariff barriers to protect their poultry industries, meaning that in some cases they simply ban the importation of any chicken.

In Botswana, this has resulted in a situation where smuggling chicken from South Africa has become a national pastime.

That might not sound very appealing to most Namibians because becoming a nation of chicken-smugglers seems slightly undignified.

The Government, however, needs to investigate direct subsidies to Namib Poultry Industries and other infant industries as an alternative to IIP.

Subsidies are by no means ideal because they distort markets and often foster economic inefficiency.

On the plus side, they make everyone pay more or less equally for industrialisation and job creation, not just the poor.

Meanwhile, NPI has announced further increases in the price of chicken because it says current prices cannot support a sustainable industry.

Why kick poor people in the teeth when they are the ones who can least afford the services of an orthodontist?



The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

Contact Us

Windhoek Observer House
c/o John Meinert & Rossini Street
Windhoek West
Tel: +264 61 411 800
Fax: +264 61 226 098