The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) and two leading vaccine manufacturing companies from China yesterday set the tone for Namibia becoming a net exporter of vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and other animal medicines in the near future.
The combined announcement by Chinese Ambassador to Namibia Xin Shunkang and the Minister of Agriculture, John Mutorwa, comes in the wake of the first FMD outbreak in northern Namibia in more than 30 years and on the eve of Namibia exporting its first consignment of beef to China.
According to the announcement, the Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company (AFFECC) and Group of China will undertake the task of constructing an FMD vaccine manufacturing plant in Namibia. The site should be up and running within the next three to five years on a 100 hectare plot at Eenhana in the Ohangwena Region.
A Chinese delegation of animal health experts are in the country and will undertake a comprehensive tour of the Northern Communal Areas as from today, following which they will present their findings to the MAWF.
“During the upcoming week, details will emerge on the modalities according to which the vaccine facility will be established,” Mutorwa told New Era yesterday. He stressed the importance and urgency of such a facility, saying Namibia would always be exposed to animal health diseases, as the country is host to 2 million cattle, 4 million goats and 2.6 million sheep.
Xin Shunkang told this newspaper that the Chinese government has pledged to invest heavily in agriculture in Africa and that Namibia is one of the African countries where China will set up 100 agricultural centres to assist with technical support and knowledge transfer to ensure better food security.
Namibia is currently suffering acute food insecurity, with some 550 000 Namibians in need of food aid, following three dry years.
Mutorwa stressed the importance of a healthy livestock sector, saying the sector shows significant growth both in terms of quality, quantity and value. He expressed his gratitude toward China for accepting Namibian beef exports which are expected to start soon, adding that Namibian beef is a sought-after commodity worldwide, already on sale in the European Free Trade Areas, which include the lucrative Norwegian market, while other exciting markets such as China are opening up.
“It is of utmost importance that the MAWF attracts investment into the livestock vaccine and pharmaceutical industries to ensure long-term sustainability and security for the Namibian livestock sector and to position our country to one day be a net exporter of livestock vaccines and pharmaceuticals,” he noted.
Botswana is the only SADC country presently manufacturing FMD vaccine and Namibia had to rely solely on that source during the recent FMD outbreak. The proposed manufacturing plant at Eenhana would put an end to such dependency and Namibia would be in a position to export much-needed FMD vaccine, as well as other animal medicines.