GOVERNMENT is not issuing any permits for importation of chickens, Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister, Perrance Shiri, has said.

“Permits are issued under my signature and so far we have not given anyone such permits. Unless of course you are talking of the time of the Avian Flu virus but those have since been cancelled,” said the minister.

He was responding to concerns that cheap poultry imports were still flooding the market, thereby crowding out local producers. The minister blames such concerns to rampant smuggling.

“What could be happening is that people are smuggling chickens, which is illegal,” he said.

Local producers have said cheap poultry imports were threatening the viability of their businesses, which are still trying to recover from the Avian Flu outbreak that affected the country and the region last year.

The development has resulted in the price of chickens drastically going down as the local industry tries to compete with cheap foreign imports, mainly from South Africa and Brazil.

One of the affected poultry producers is Gweru-based chicken producer, Fairhill Chickens, which has been forced to scale production down by 40 percent due to an influx of imports on the local market.

Managing director, Mr Trevor Shaw, said demand on the local market dropped significantly since January.

“Towards the end of January, markets were depressed and investigations showed that there were permits, which were issued to certain people to import chicken and that has resulted in players in the country reducing production.

“You don’t want to keep chickens in a freezer for more than three months and so we have had to cut production for about 40 percent,” said Mr Shaw.

Mr Shaw said the company has also been forced to lay off some workers to cope with the depressed production.

“It’s unfortunate we were running the abattoir with a double shift and the cut in production could not afford to keep production with the second shift. So for now we have one shift and those on the second shift were unfortunately laid off and other contract workers. As soon as things normalise they will return to work,” he added.

Mr Shaw was, however, optimistic that production would increase to full capacity by August, spurred by the recent crackdown on imports by Government.