Beef is Our Daily Bread [opinion]

THE country’s livestock sector, particularly the beef sector, is one of among the many cogs that propel our economic sector.

Before we delve into this matter, it is of paramount importance to point out that despite the arid nature of Namibia it has exceeded general expectations by far and it produces much sought-after beef.

We are able to produce quality beef and have been able to compete with established producers that are often heavily subsidized.

We export frozen, vacuum-packed prime beefs cuts from free-range cattle to South Africa, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, China, Dubai and even to Czechoslovakia. But the South African market absorbs the bulk of Namibia’s beef market that includes weaners produced in the Omaheke Region.

We have a sound animal care track record while our abattoirs are HACCP (4) and ISO 9001 accredited and another aantage is we enjoy South African export status. We should indicate at this juncture that enjoying South African export status is no mean feat because South Africa has very stringent export requirements resulting in many countries not making the grade.

Last year, Namibia exported 390 000 sheep and goats on the hoof to South Africa and 252 710 cattle to that same lucrative market.

But of late, Namibia faced some insurmountable challenges that nearly spelt doom for this important productive sector.

South African regulations stipulate livestock for that market should come from the World Veterinary Organisation (OIE) declared sickness-free zone and that the cattle should have been quarantined and tested for diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.

But they also further demanded that Namibia should undertake a battery of tests on diseases that have not been detected here.

The fear was that had Namibia complied this would simply have placed an enormous financial burden on our farmers who are still emerging from a debilitating drought that exacted a heavy financial toll on farmers.

Had the South Africans prevailed with their demands this could have resulted in far-reaching consequences for our beef sector.

Thousands of jobs in the livestock sector would have been jeopardized and subsequently there would have been a notable reduction in revenue generated by this crucial segment of our economy.

Praise to the veterinary team that comprised of Veterinary Services and officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.

The team presented good arguments that essentially saved the day for the livestock sector that depends on these exports.

They argued that Namibia exports livestock from a zone that is internationally recognized as free from foot-and-mouth disease.

The South Africans were told we have a sound livestock traceability system with a well-structured animal surveillance system.

The successful negotiations should also be taken in the context that an overwhelming proportion of our population relies on farming for their livelihood. Had these negotiations floundered, that would have sounded the death knell for our cattle farmers emerging from a crippling drought.

Source : New Era