Stakeholders in Namibia’s N$2 billion per annum livestock export industry have officially requested President Hage Geingob to intervene after the local livestock industry received devastating news last week that South African authorities intend to push through with animal health requirements for Namibian livestock, which could bring the local industry to its knees.
Namibia currently exports some 180 000 weaners, 90 000 sheep and 250 000 goats per year to South Africa and the N$2 billion industry is the livelihood of especially small-scale and communal farmers.
Chairperson of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) Mecki Schneider yesterday described the requirements as “trade restrictions requested by the SA Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO), because they have no system in place to control the flow of animals to and from South Africa”.
Schneider confirmed the official request by the LPO for President Geingob to take up their case after the latest revised import regulations for Namibian livestock to the RSA were published on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website last week.
It turns out that the revised regulations have not changed from the previous publication, on which the Namibian industry has already commented extensively. These stringent regulations were imposed overnight in May 2013 and devastated the local livestock export industry, resulting in losses of billions of dollars.
The import regulations involve strict animal health testing. A two-month period (ending January 8, 2016) follows wherein the Namibian livestock industry has the opportunity to comment on the regulations.
A grace period of four months follows, whereafter the regulations will be fully implemented in May 2016.
The LPO has been instructed by the Meat Board as facilitator of the process to address this issue at the highest level. At a meeting at Otjiwarongo last week, President Geingob was informed about the situation and requested to take the matter up with the SA at governmental level.
Furthermore, the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) asked its sister organisation, Agri SA, for support. The livestock industry will meet this week to discuss the way forward in an attempt to mitigate the impact of these new import requirements.
Various emergency measures have also been put in place and the LPO has instructed a private company to undertake an independent risk analysis on the health status of Namibian livestock.
A clearly irate Schneider told New Era yesterday from his farm that the South African Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO), who has relentlessly been pushing for these import regulations for livestock from Namibia is not playing a fair game.
”The RPO can’t be serious. They have not asked for the same stringent requirements for exports of Namibian game to their country. Why just our livestock, who have been declared free of any animal health diseases by the WHO for decades?”
Schneider says the potentially devastating situation will also be brought to the attention of the ministries of agriculture and trade to get a unified, focused stance on the issue. The Meat Board has since 2013 been putting short-, medium- and long-term strategies in place in case of such a scenario as the one unfolding now. These measures include the transformation of the Namibian weaner industry to an oxen production system.
In 2013, government requested the small stock industry (abattoirs and producers) to make a joint proposal of alternatives to the Small Stock Marketing Scheme.
On November 4, a delegation from the Livestock Producers Forum (LPF) and the Meat Board was invited to make presentations to the Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Development in this regard. The joint industry proposal is that all limiting measures with regards to small stock marketing should be repealed. The proposal was favourably considered by the above Committee and will now be submitted to Cabinet for consideration.
“The LPO, the Meat Board and all our partners have done what they could to convince the South African authorities otherwise. We’ve conducted endless meetings, discussions and have been involved with endless correspondence.
“We have shown great patience and understanding but this issue is lopsided and unfair. We have no alternative but to ask President Geingob to address the issue at the highest government levels, ” Schneider argued.