Government Appeals High Court Dairy Import Ruling

THE Ministry of Trade and Industry has appealed Friday’s ruling by the Windhoek High Court that said an incorrect law was used last year to introduce restrictions on the importation of milk products into Namibia.

On Monday, the ministry appealed to the Supreme Court against the judgement of Judge Dave Smuts.

Matador Enterprises were cited as the first respondent, the Diary Producers Association of Namibia as the second respondent, Namibia Diaries as the third respondent, the Meat Board of Namibia as the fourth respondent and the Namibia Competition Commission as the fifth respondent, according to the notice of appeal.

A lawyer familiar with the case said yesterday that this means that the status quo before Friday’s ruling remains in force until such time the Supreme Court has confirmed the judgment by Smuts or alternatively rules otherwise.

The proceedings in the Supreme Court are expected to start this year or early next year.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Control of Importation and Exportation of Dairy Products and Dairy Products Substitutes Act of 1986, instead of the Import and Export Control Act of 1994, should have been used by the Minister of Trade and Industry if he wanted to place restrictions on the importation of dairy products into Namibia, Smuts found in the judgement in which he set aside the Government Notice that put the dairy import restrictions in place.

Smuts also found that parties affected by the dairy import restrictions, such as companies importing milk products into Namibia and foreign dairy producers, were not given a proper chance to have their views heard before a decision was made to introduce the import restrictions.

He further found that the decision to introduce the import restrictions was taken by Cabinet when in terms of the law, that decision should have been taken by the minister of trade and industry.

Smuts commented that it was apparent that the entire process of introducing the restrictions “viewed as a whole was hopelessly and fundamentally flawed”.

The import restrictions were challenged by two Namibian dairy importers, Matador Enterprises and Clover Dairy Namibia, and a South African dairy producer, Parmalat SA.

In the Government Notice, Schlettwein in September last year prohibited the importation of dairy products into Namibia, except when an import permit had been issued. He also prescribed a limit of 500 000 litres per month for the importation of milk and cream into Namibia, and a limit of 200 000 litres per month for the importation of cultured milk products.

The import restrictions were intended to provide protection to Namibia’s dairy industry, which has found itself struggling to compete against especially South African dairy products that end up on Namibian shelves at lower prices than similar Namibian products.

The three companies were also asking the court to declare two sections of the Import and Export Control Act, in terms of which the dairy import quotas were promulgated, unconstitutional and invalid.

Having concluded that there were grounds to set aside the Government Notice, Judge Smuts did not find it necessary to deal with the constitutionality of the two sections of the law.

Source : The Namibian