EC delegation visits Meatco

WINDHOEK: A delegation from the European Commission (EC) visited the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) Windhoek abattoir last week, with the aim of getting an overview on how it operates.

The visit comes a few months before 01 October this year, when Namibia is expected to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).

The EU is currently in negotiations for an EPA with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group made up of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa.

Other SADC countries expected to sign the agreement include Swaziland, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa.

A media statement issued here on Wednesday by Meatco’s Manager for Corporate Communications and Marketing Mario Poolman said the delegation also wanted to see how Meatco operates in adherence to international standards, specifically pertaining to the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system and certification.

“At this stage, indications are still unclear on whether or not Namibia will sign EPA,” read the statement.

The last round of negotiations between the SADC EPA Group and the EU was held in Brussels, Belgium from 31 March to 02 April 2014.

“According to the Agricultural Trade Forum (ATF) which attended the negotiations, the issue of export duties and agriculture safeguards remain unfinalised, and as such negotiations could not be concluded between the two parties,” read the statement.

However, it was agreed that each member State has to report back to their governments regarding the progress reached in the negotiations, and each country should decide on the way forward, considering the outstanding issues.

Namibian beef producers currently enjoy access to the EU without paying duties and without any quota limitations, which allows Namibian cattle and beef production systems to be competitive in the European market.

Should Namibia not sign the EPA, Namibian beef producers could lose this free market access and any exports to the EU will require export taxes to be paid for such products – a process which will be very costly for meat export businesses.

Meatco noted that Namibia’s beef industry is able to realise huge returns from the EU market, which in turn contributes 50 per cent to the agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Meanwhile, Trade Ministers from the SADC EPA group will gather in South Africa next week to discuss outstanding issues on the long-overdue EPA negotiations before the group signs the EPA. Two outstanding issues are the safeguarding of agricultural products, and export taxes will be ironed out.

The Namibian team heading to the EPA negotiations in Pretoria next week will be led by Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein.

The EU is an institutional framework for the construction of a united Europe, and consists of 15 countries that are members of the EU.

The EC is a body attached to the EU, and proposes policies and legislation. It is responsible for administration, and ensures that the provisions of the Treaties and the decisions of the institutions are properly implemented.