Proactive Response Encouraged in Livestock Drama

The Namibian Animal Health Consultative Forum (AHCF) decided at its quarterly meeting last week to act proactively and continue to collect information as a possible antipode for future import conditions from South Africa.

This decision comes in the wake of the South African Red Meat Producers Organisation’s (RPO) latest stance to prevent livestock imports from Namibia with no amicable solution in sight as the year draws to an end. Namibia recently learned about the new bid by the Red Meat Producers Organisation of South Africa to have beef exports on the hoof banned from Namibia,

In light of the uncertainty, the AHCF stressed that background and preventative reports surrounding animal diseases such as brucellosis, tuberculosis and lung sickness (CBPP) will be addressed as a matter of priority. A committee consisting of various veterinarians from the private and public sector under the chairmanship of Dr Anja Boshoff of the Meat Board has been tasked with compiling the reports.

When he recently learned about the new bid by the RPO after discussions with the chairperson of the RPO in South Africa, Lardus van Zyl as well as the Executive Manager, Gerhard Schutte in Pretoria, Mecki Schneider, chairperson of the Namibian Livestock Producers Organization (LPO) reacted gly as the local livestock industry had its hopes pinned on relaxed requirements from South Africa for Namibian beef exports.

From the talks it was clear that the RPO maintain their view that the import of animals from Namibia to South Africa does not comply with all the requirements as contained in the South African legislation and that they will request the South African Department of Veterinary Services to re-instate the strict requirements for exports to South Africa.

The SA meat industry expects that the SA Department of Veterinary Services will announce certain regulations in this regard whereafter role players in the SA meat industry will have the opportunity to react.

Schneider says the basis for the RPO action was not to protect the animal health status of South Africa. Namibia has for decades not posed any health risk to the SA market with its livestock exports. If the veterinary experts of SA were honest in their decision, they would have applied these impossible requirements not just to cattle, goat and sheep imports from Namibia, but also to game exports to the neighbouring country.

“These requirements are not applicable to game exports and this leaves me with only one conclusion: SA’s decisions were based on trade limitations to halt imports of Namibian weaners based on the false perception that our weaners influence the prices in SA.”

He says Namibia’s 160 000-plus weaners have no effect on the prices in SA. “Our weaners represent less than five percent of the total weaners available to SA. South Africa must remember one thing: the country will forever remain a net importer of red meat, whether in the form of weaners or carcasses.”

He says the local industry, in close corporation with the Meat Board, is paying full attention to solutions for all three above-mentioned terms and this will not be an easy task. “We will most probably have to restructure the composition of our national herd,” he notes.

Schneider says Namibia can never allow the export markets to SA and anywhere else to slip beyond their grasp. Namibia has the most insecure rainfall pattern south of the Sahara and will always be subjected to droughts and these export markets provide excellent relief in critical times.

He says one of the biggest concerns for communal farmers is the situation regarding the export of some 260 000 goats annually to Kwazulu-Natal. “This a real concern to all of us as SA is currently the only export market for these communal and small-scale farmers and they make a big contribution with their goat farming. Goat exports to SA have already been identified as a priority and will be treated as such in the weeks and months to come.”

Amidst the drama of weaner exports to SA, Schneider remains positive about the recent breakthrough with the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU.

“It was of utmost importance for the profitability of our industry and the opening of doors to other export markets like the one to Russia which is now open and the soon to come market in Hong Kong, China and the USA as well as some 26 African countries.

“The joint vision of the Meat Board will have to be coordinated with the government’s sectorial plans. It is of utmost importance that the livestock industry and government share the same vision. We will also have to debate the issue of switching over from a weaner production system to an oxen production system on national level. Solid relations with all role players, including other agricultural unions in the SADC region will be a key factor. The ultimate aim is to establish better animal health status for the whole SADC region and Namibia has already taken the initiative with its NamLITS (animal health traceability system),” he concludes.

Source : New Era