Another Setback for Livestock Sector

Negotiations between Namibia and South Africa on the livestock export crisis suffered a major setback when the South African Feedlot Association halted the process by demanding more time to finalise the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Namibian livestock imports.

The association last week requested more time to finalise the SOPs for the import of weaners and sheep from Namibia, further exacerbating the crisis.

Hopes are dashed for now that the export of especially weaners would be possible in the first quarter of July.

Analysts warned over the weekend that the situation would leave Namibia with an excessive amount of weaners and no market on the eve of the annual weaner season that starts in August when the majority of Namibia’s some 160 000 weaners usually leave the country for feedlots in South Africa.

This unexpected twist in the ongoing saga has resulted in the Meat Board calling for an urgent meeting with all Namibian stakeholders this coming Wednesday in Windhoek to immediately discuss alternative markets, as it became clear the door to South Africa’s feedlots will remain shut for an unknown time.

Except for goats, which all go to the direct slaughter market in Kwazulu-Natal, some 85 percent of all Namibian cattle and sheep exports do not end up as direct slaughter animals but go via the SA Abattoir Association.

General manager of the Meat Board Paul Strydom confirmed this coming Wednesday’s meeting, expressing his bitter disappointment on behalf of all Namibian livestock producers about the latest stance of the SA Abattoir Association.

The Acting Director of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (S) Dr John Shoopala told New Era it is not about animal health requirements but rather a case of the South African role players in the industry looking after their own interests.

Chief Financial Officer of Meatco Nico Weck echoed similar sentiments when asked for comment on the latest developments, saying it is now clear that more restrictions can be expected by South Africa in an effort to widen their trade base as a foot-and-mouth disease-free country.

“A call for national intervention is now needed because the real tragedy is that Namibian communal farmers suffer the most since new restrictions were implemented by South Africa on 1 May. Communal farmers contribute the lion’s share of the total volumes of export animals and they rely 100 percent on the industry for an income,” he lamented. He says it is a massive challenge for Namibia to open its own feedlots and a big responsibility will rest on the green schemes for fodder production for such animals.

“There is no one silver bullet for our situation,” he said.

Strydom says the SA Feedlot Association has not withdrawn from the current discussions of which the next round amongst South African role players will take place on 21 July.

“But we have to look at every single possible alternative at this coming Wednesday’s meeting because our producers have been suffering since 1 May and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know when the two sets of permits – one for slaughter animals and one for breeding animals – will eventually be finalised. Therefore, we must be pro-active.”

Shoopala, who has been instrumental in negotiating the animal health permits with SA authorities, said the situation should serve as a serious wake-up call for Namibia as we have no feedlots for weaners and no abattoirs for the slaughtering of goats.

“We have become way too dependent on South Africa. It is now time to think out of the box,” he said.

Not a single head of cattle has been exported on the hoof to South Africa since 1 May due to the stringent new requirements. Local livestock producers had their sights set on a meeting last Wednesday in Pretoria where good news was expected, but exactly the opposite resulted.

Namibia’s lucrative weaner export industry – which amounts to earnings of more than N$2 billion from some 160 000 weaners exported annually – has since 1 May grinded to a halt and so has sheep exports while only about 2 500 live goats have been exported to KwaZulu-Natal. Namibia normally exports about 240 000 goats to South Africa which ensures an income of about N$16,8 million while its live sheep exports amounts to about N$8,5 million per annum. Communal famers make up for about 60% of the total exports and are hardest hit by the impasse as prices for their goats have dropped by some 40 per cent already.

Source : New Era