Livestock Exports to SA Reach Critical Stage

The immediate future of the lucrative Namibian livestock export market is hanging by a thin thread once again after three urgent meetings by the Namibian meat industry failed to reach common ground.

The meetings took place over the past two weeks following the refusal of South African authorities to budge on the very strict new veterinary requirements to be implemented this coming Thursday already. One of these meetings took place under the chairmanship of the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, in order to discuss the strict measures that were put in place by South Africa for the import of animals to the neighbouring country, which is also the livelihood of Namibian livestock farmers. The latest development in a long-fought battle by Namibian stakeholders and role-players is that an urgent request by the industry will be made to the Department of Veterinary Services in South Africa to extend the cut-off date of May 1 in order to hold further talks.

It was also decided that a high level delegation of Namibia’s meat industry under the leadership of the Directorate of Veterinary Services visit South Africa to discuss the seriousness of this matter with the meat industry in South Africa.

At this stage all attempts by the Meat Board to get an urgent appointment with the South African meat industry for such a meeting to materialise have failed owing to the fact that South Africa has two public holidays this week, celebrating two decades of freedom from the apartheid regime, which has put such a meeting temporarily on hold.

In Namibia, livestock farmers in the communal and commercial sectors are awaiting the proposed meeting with bated breath in light of the seriousness of the situation, should South Africa refuse to budge on the strict, new restrictions.

The proposed health requirements were introduced during bilateral meetings at the end of last year and were to be implemented on December 31, but South Africa extended the deadline to May 1. Permanent Secretary of the MAWF, Joseph Iita went on record recently, saying the implementation of the requirements in their current form will result in the total cessation of livestock trade between the two countries, and asked for further a postponement of the implementation deadline.

The Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) and the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) are represented by some of their regional representatives, agents and livestock exporters and managers in order to give the necessary inputs in preparation for the proposed meeting.

In spite of an agreement reached by the veterinary services authorities in both countries on March 7 this year, the Department of Veterinary Services in South Africa reverted to their original requirements, which shook the meat industry in January 2014.

The Minister of Agriculture also brought the seriousness of the matter under the attention of the Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.

Chairperson of the Livestock Producers Forum, Mecki Schneider told New Era that, if implemented, the new requirements are bound to have a seriously negative impact on the Namibian livestock industry as a whole, since South Africa is the biggest importer of Namibian livestock. A record number of 260 765 head of cattle were imported by South Africa from Namibia last year compared to 68 196 in the corresponding period the previous year.

This represents a dramatic increase of 282 percent in imports of live cattle by South Africa. Although the increased imports are regarded as a direct result of last year’s drought, the increased numbers also underline the importance of South Africa as a vital export market for Namibia.

Source : New Era