Meat Board counters objections by US cattle farmers

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Windhoek

The meat to be exported to the United States will come from Namibia’s own foot-and-mouth disease-free zones, the Meat Board of Namibia said yesterday in response to objections lodged by a USA association of cattle farmers against Namibia’s prospects of exporting beef to that country.

Paul Strydom, general manager of the Meat Board of Namibia, said: “There are numerous other risk-mitigating measures in place to prevent exported beef from transmitting the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) virus to the USA
livestock herd.” Not only that but both the USA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) “as the competent authorities of the United States Department of
Agriculture, have verified Namibian systems,” Strydom told New Era yesterday.

American farmers are objecting to the proposal by FSIS that Namibia be added to the list of countries eligible to export meat products to the United States. The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) has come
out strongly against the proposal, saying imports of Namibian meat and meat products into the USA pose the risk of importing FMD into the USA, thus endangering their beef industry.

The US beef farmers base their objections on the fact that Namibia is in proximity to the FMD-affected
countries of Angola, Zambia and Botswana, with only South Africa and southern Botswana declared as FMDfree
without vaccination. The farmers are particularly wary of Namibia sharing a border with Angola, a country
that, they say, has declared several recent cases of FMD outbreaks.

However, Strydom emphasised that the distance “between Angola and Namibia’s FMD-free zone is a few hundred kilometres where active surveillances are presently being conducted”. Strydom also shot down as incorrect the insinuation that the potential of FMD-infected livestock from Angola entering Namibia “is made most apparent in images from Namibia displaying wildlife literally trampling through the current barriers in place” between Namibia and Angola.

“There is no fence between Angola and Namibia,” says Strydom. Nevertheless, Strydom says the basis of the objections does not hold water given that the USA “accepts beef from South American countries also known
to have regular foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, albeit a different virus”. Strydom says the export of Namibian beef to the USA would entail most probably less than 0.05 percent of the total US production. “It would however be an important market for Namibia in specific categories of product.”

The US cattle farmers have said the notice to add Namibia to the list of the countries eligible for export of
meat products to the US “goes directly against concerns raised by the industry in recent years regarding such proposed notice for changes in trade with regions sensitive to FMD impacts”.

“The safety of our domestic herd must remain the focus of the administration and we ask FSIS to withdraw the proposed notice,” USCA president Danni Beer has been quoted as saying. To which Strydom responded:
“Transmission of the foot-and-mouth disease virus via meat is in any case very rare”.

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