Livestock Exports to SA Shelved

The beef industry will continue to suffer heavy financial losses following a decision by the South African authorities last Friday not to budge on new livestock import restrictions that came into force on May 1.

The decision has put all livestock exports to South Africa on hold until May 31. However, a high profile meeting last Friday in Pretoria between the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Joseph Iita and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Dr Malan Lindeque, as well as the Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa, Professor Edith Vries, brought a glimmer of hope for local beef producers. The Namibian delegation made a breakthrough in establishing the intent to do away with the new requirements for all Namibian direct slaughter animals – including some 200 000 weaners and 100 000 sheep – after May 31, which will bring huge relief to local producers. But until then all livestock exports are on hold.

It is estimated that some 60 000 emerging and communal farmers are affected by the draconian animal health regulations that were put in place on May 1. If Namibia fails to have the restrictions removed, weaner exports to South Africa could drop by some 200 000 animals this year. Namibia’s communal and emerging goat farmers will also feel the pinch as they contribute significantly to the 240 000 goats exported to South Africa annually. Namibia also exports on average some 100 000 sheep to South Africa every year. Namibia also produces some 400 000 cattle annually, half of them being slaughter oxen and almost 200 000 weaners. If the weaners are to stay in Namibia due to the new export requirements, the local market will be saturated and farmers robbed of a vital source of income. However, it was agreed during last Friday’s meeting that the new requirements will not apply to direct slaughter animals after May 31. Auctions have also dwindled countrywide after the implementation of the new restrictions and no auctions took place in the Omaheke and Erongo regions following the announcement of the new regulations.

Farmers’ unions yesterday reserved comments until an official announcement is made by the government, but agreed that if the situation is not resolved soon it will have a profound effect on the industry.

The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) John Mutorwa confirmed to New Era yesterday that he has been informed about the decisions reached at the Pretoria meeting, but added that it would be premature to comment on the situation at this point.

Both Mutorwa and the Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein have written letters to the South African authorities to demand the meeting that took place in Pretoria last Friday. According to Mutorwa the meeting was a departure point for a practical and reasonable view on the situation.

Mutorwa also warned Namibian stakeholders in the industry that South African livestock producers might be busy with an economic campaign against Namibian producers, under the pretext of improved animal health regulations. The new veterinary requirements have already impacted severely on the Namibian livestock industry and could devastate communal, emerging and commercial farmers. The price of weaners has dropped by some N$5 per kilogram in recent days, due to the uncertainty over the survival of the export market to South Africa.

Source : New Era