United States Ambassador to Namibia Thomas Daughton says he is looking forward to the day when he can serve Namibian beef to his guests.
Daughton’s optimistic comments come amid reported unease among North American farmers after the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a notice of its intention to include Namibia on the list of countries eligible to export meat products to the United States of America.
“I look forward to the day when I am able to host guests in the United States and serve Namibian meat products. My team and I have worked hard to help Namibia through the inspection process and to facilitate the necessary meetings and inspections. Our end-goal is to see increased trade between Namibia and the United States,” Daughton said.
The proposal is subject to a final ruling by the FSIS and U.S. Department of Agriculture, but has been met with vehement objections by ranchers, particularly the US Cattlemen’s Association.
However, Daughton says the decision-making process is such that it requires the U.S. government to address any and all comments and concerns received before issuing a final ruling. No date has yet been given as to when the FSIS would issue its final ruling.
“I’m also a supporter of the public comment period in the United States and in other countries. Public participation, including from interest groups, reflects a healthy and dynamic democratic process and full participation in decision-making at all levels of government,” Daughton said.
Should the proposed FSIS rule become final, Namibia will be eligible to export to the U.S. boneless, but not grounded raw beef products, including primal cuts, chucks, blade, and beef trimmings.
The earlier projected volume of exports to the U.S. was about 1.9 million pounds (about 848 tonnes) in 2015, increasing to 12.5 million pounds (about 5 600 tonnes) in 2019. Information provided by the U.S. Embassy in Namibia shows that although Namibia indicates that – for now – it is only seeking to export boneless beef products, this would not preclude it from exporting other meat products in future, provided that the products meet all FSIS and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service requirements, and any additional requirements that FSIS might have in place with regard to such products.
The U.S. 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 the beef industry there.
The US beef farmers base their objections on the fact that Namibia is in proximity to FMD-affected countries Angola, Zambia and Botswana, with only South Africa and southern Botswana declared FMD-free without vaccination. The farmers are particularly wary of Namibia sharing a non-fenced border with Angola, a country that they say has declared several cases of recent FMD outbreaks.
The FSIS posted its proposed ruling on Namibia and invited interested persons to submit comments during a 60-day period that ended November 17. The U.S. Embassy in Windhoek says the public comment period allows citizens and interest groups to share their opinions with federal agencies that are considering such rulings.
“Generally, as part of their decision-making process, agencies provide the public the opportunity to comment for a period of 60 or 90 days on a proposed ruling. At every level of government in the United States, officials carefully consider the public’s input in making a final decision,” the embassy said in a communication to New Era.
The Meat Board of Namibia has sought to allay fears, saying meat products to be exported to the U.S. would come from Namibia’s own foot-and-mouth disease-free zones.
“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,” general manager of the Meat Board of Namibia Paul Strydom earlier said.