By Deon Schlechter
The Namibian Meat Board is to seek an urgent independent study on the requirements for animal health and livestock exports to South Africa from the South African authorities as the next step in the restriction drama by South Africa since December 2013, which has halted livestock exports from Namibia and robbed thousands of households of their main source of income.
Confirming the latest development exclusively to New Era yesterday, general manager of the Meat Board, Paul Strydom, said an urgent meeting between Namibian and South African authorities regarding this delicate situation is the first priority of the Meat Board for the New Year.
Strydom says it is the absolute priority of the Meat Board in the next few weeks to seek relief for Namibian livestock exporters in the South African markets. "We have not contacted our counterparts in South Africa yet as most officials are still on holiday, but we will do so soon and start preparations for the first official meeting to discuss our dilemma in great detail.
The Meat Board will seek an independent study on animal health and once again remind South Africa of the clean bill of health status that Namibian livestock producers enjoy worldwide. The South African authorities must then spell out the reasons for the almost impossible requirements from their side and we will move forward from their and adjust if we have to," Strydom says.
Namibia's multi-billion-dollar Namibian livestock industry on whose livelihood some 70 percent of the 2.2 million inhabitants depend, rakes in more than N$2 billion annually from an average of 160 000 weaners exported to South Africa, as well as 100 000 sheep and about 240 000 goats. Communal famers make up for about 60 percent of the total export. With the stringent requirements set, no weaners have been exported from Namibia to South Africa since May 2014. It may, therefore, seem to some people that the border is closed. This is not the case. It is, however, extremely difficult to meet the export requirements.
Strict requirements set by South African authorities, like vaccinations and tests among others, cost producers a lot of money to comply with. Therefore, most producers choose not to export their weaners to South Africa. The big challenge for Namibia is the testing of a whole herd for Brucella melitensis (BM) and tubercullosis (TB) even if only certain animals are to be sent to South Africa, and that animals have to be quarantined.
The meat industry met towards the end of last year to find short- and long-term solutions for the export of weaners, sheep and goats. Following the meeting, it was decided that the Directorate of Veterinary Services should prepare an interpretation regarding the requirements which have to be met, as well as the costs thereof, while their capacity has to be increased to do all the required tests.
The Meat Board also suggested that exports to neighbouring countries of Angola, the DRC, Zambia and Zimbabwe be researched, while a market for goats should be explored in the Middle-East. Local slaughtering capacity must be increased and under-utilised farms must be made available.
In the medium-term, it should be investigated how more animals could be rounded off locally for feedlots, among others. Structural changes to herds may also have to take place in future.
Namibia now will have to convince South African authorities and give guarantees regarding its animal health status for further export negotiations to take place.