The country is poised to start exporting 540 metric tons of paws to China each month following a deal that grew out of a matchmaking event organized by official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, Wesgro, and Standard Bank.
The event was able to match a Chinese company with an interest in importing chicken feet with a local trading consultancy working with farmers and commodities traders, AskCarlaKote. With the help of a number of other institutions, a deal was struck.
Once shipments start they could be worth ZAR300 million (US$15.8 million) per annum for local poultry producers and result in 3,000 additional pairs of workers feet treading a path into the value chain.
While the shipments cannot start until South Africa is again officially recognized as avian influenza-free, AskCarlaKote founder Carla Kote, believes the first shipments will happen this year.
Paws will be sourced primarily from female-owned poultry farms in the Western Cape and Mpumalang, but Kote notes that her consultancy is also now looking to ship from clients in Western Africa.
Little feet grow into big footsteps
While time will be needed for shipments to reach the scale of major exporters, such as the U.S. and Brazil, you never know where the deal might lead now that South Africa has dipped its toes into the international market for chicken feet.
Exports of U.S. chicken to China between 2019 and 2022 are thought to have increased by 10,000%, with the majority of sales being paws. China’s demand for chicken paws has been described as a “bonanza” for the U.S. poultry industry.
China is only able to satisfy about 60% of demand through local paw production. In 2022, imports of frozen feet are thought to have risen by almost 37.7%, while in the first quarter of last year they were up by almost 26.8%, reports Thai broadcasting and media company K.
South Africa would now appear to be taking its first steps to access this lucrative market. We’ll have to wait and see where its newly-prized feet may take it.