Almost four months after meeting all the requirements set out by South African authorities regarding new import measures on January 08, Namibia’s N$2 billion per annum livestock industry remains in the dark about the future as no date has yet been announced for implementation of the prerequisites.
Neither has South Africa confirmed whether the Standard Handling Procedure, as communicated with Namibia, been accepted or not, or the contents of a new official veterinary import certificate to accompany the Standard Handling Procedure been made known.
What has been dubbed a cat-and-mouse-game by SA authorities since May 2013, has now resulted in an urgent livestock industry meeting to take place on May 18 regarding markets for cattle producers in the northern communal areas (NCAs) , which produce up to 70 percent of the lucrative weaner exports of some 180 000 animals per year.
The expected SA livestock import conditions and markets for producers in the NCAs have dominated recent Meat Board meetings after the local livestock and meat industries recommended various options to the Animal Health Forum and Meat Board. These include disclosing the state of affairs to the agriculture minister once again and informing the Namibian meat industry about the contents of the Standard Handling Procedure that will possibly apply to the export of livestock to feedlots in SA.
Cattle producers north of the veterinary cordon fence have for almost a year not had a market for their cattle due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the area last year, as well as the withdrawal of Meatco from the export abattoirs at Oshakati and Katima Mulilo, while the local abattoirs at Eenhana, Uutapi and Opuwa are not yet in operation.
The lifting of the FMD outbreak alert necessitated the minister to make certain suggestions to find markets for producers’ cattle and beef. The Meat Board was requested to manage the former quarantine farm Omutambo Mawe for the production of oxen, as well as to investigate the financial feasibility of erecting a processing plant at Katima Mulilo.
The drawn-out discussions on new import regulations from SA have had local producers on edge ever since and even more so now with the latest lull in SA’s intentions.
If implemented as recommended by SA, these requirements could bring the local industry to its knees. Meat Board General Manager Paul Strydom confirmed to New Era that as coordinator of the negotiations, the Meat Board met the deadline of January 8 to answer South Africa on the various issues the neighbouring country is basing its proposed new livestock imports from Namibia on. “We have not received any feedback to date, and continue to play the waiting game with raw nerves,” Strydom says.
At the end of last year, the Livestock Producers Association of Namibia officially requested President Hage Geingob to intervene after the local livestock industry received devastating news that SA intended to push through the stringent new regulations, which would make it virtually impossible for Namibian producers to export livestock to that country.
Namibia currently exports some 180 000 weaners, 90 000 sheep and 250 000 goats per year to SA 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, described the requirements as “trade restrictions requested by the SA Red Meat Producers Organisation, because they have no system in place to control the flow of animals to and from South Africa”.
Three years after the initial SA announcement, 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) followed wherein the Namibian livestock industry had the opportunity to comment on the regulations. A grace period of four months followed and it is expected that the regulations will be fully implemented early in May.
The Namibia Agricultural Union asked its sister organisation, Agri SA, for support. Various emergency measures have also been put in place and the LPO has instructed a private company to undertake an independent risk analysis of the health status of Namibian livestock.
The Meat Board has since 2013 been putting short, medium and long-term measures in place in case of the new regulations coming into effect. These measures include the transformation of the Namibian weaner industry to an oxen production system.
“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,” Schneider laments.