Livestock Sector Receives Lifeline

A potentially catastrophic situation for the Namibian livestock industry was defused during successful bilateral discussions between Namibia and South Africa.

The talks resulted in both countries agreeing on less draconian veterinary requirements for the export of live animals from Namibia to South Africa.

Namibia’s livestock industry – on which an overwhelming portion of the population relies for a livelihood – breathed a sigh of relief when the bilateral discussions ended on a high note last Friday at a meeting in Pretoria.

Until the resolution last week, the immediate future of the industry was in the balance with local producers already zooming in on the possibilities of alternative markets in Africa.

The two countries agreed to urgently re-examine the country-specific animal health conditions, and an ad hoc expert team comprising of one official from each country will now draft the new veterinary certificates for livestock to be exported to South Africa.

Praise has been pouring in for the Namibian delegation under the watchful eye of the acting chief veterinary officer, Dr John Shoopala, after the outcome of the latest round in a series of discussions that brought about the more favourable export requirements for Namibia.

The renowned Namibian veterinarian, Dr Herbert Schneider, and the Chairperson of the Livestock Producers Forum, Mecki Schneider, also played a pivotal role in the successful negotiations that had been ongoing since December last year when South Africa announced that it was in the process of harmonising its animal health import requirements for livestock from all SADC countries.

The agreed animal health measures will be implemented on May 1 and the relaxed requirements will then be communicated to all concerned stakeholders, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Joseph Iita, confirmed yesterday.

Just before the successful negotiations last Friday, the General Manager of the Meat Board of Namibia, Paul Strydom, warned that if implemented, the proposed requirements would with immediate effect place a limitation on Namibian livestock exports to South Africa.

The regulations require that livestock for South African markets must come from the World Veterinary Organisation (OIE) declared lung sickness-free zone, as well as health tests on individual animals for certain diseases be carried out, and the isolation of animals in quarantine facilities before exporting.

The requirements also include the individual identification of sheep, proof of vaccinations against anthrax at least 14 days but not longer than 12 months ahead, proof of treatment of internal and external parasites and proof of origin of herds free of any sicknesses. Namibian experts have pointed out that some of the diseases that must be tested have never been detected in Namibia’s foot-and-mouth-disease free areas.

Strydom said the Meat Board conducted a study on the cost issues of the requirements and results show that it would have placed an “enormously high financial burden on Namibian farmers who are battling to recover from a debilitating drought.”

Dr Shoopala yesterday said the South African feeding pens, abattoirs and the informal goat markets are extremely important distribution areas for Namibian livestock. He said although Namibia agrees with South Africa’s revised animal health requirements for livestock importing, it cannot be applied uniformly across all countries in the SADC region as animal health conditions were not necessarily the same in the respective countries.

“Namibia exports livestock from a zone that is internationally recognised as free of foot-and-mouth disease without vaccination has an excellent animal identification and traceability system applies a range of disease prevention and control measures as well as a well-structured animal disease surveillance system. With these measures, Namibia was also able to provide a high level of sanitary protection to importing countries,” he noted.

All Namibian stakeholders have been in constant discussions since last December about the situation that is seen as life-threatening for the Namibian livestock export industry. After the South African authorities originally refused to budge on the strict requirements, it was decided to call in the expertise of Dr Schneider, who is an international veterinary consultant and an OIE-accepted veterinary services assessor of AgriVET International, Namibia. Namibia exported a total of 389 205 live sheep and goats to South Africa last year, as well as 252 710 cattle and 35 424 pigs.

Source : New Era