Namibian authorities will engage in further deliberations regarding the implementation of stringent new livestock import regulations by South Africa as from July 1 for Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, as gazetted last week and announced by South African Minister of Agriculture Senzeni Zokwana.
The implementation – on the eve of the annual weaner auction season – has kept the N$2 billion Namibian industry on edge since 2013 and was greeted with serious concern by role players. Neither has South Africa spelled out the Standard Handling Procedure (SOP), as communicated with Namibia, or revised the contents of a veterinary import certificate to accompany the Standard Handling Procedure.
The Meat Board of Namibia and the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) confirmed to New Era on Friday that they would request further engagements with the SA authorities, as no final conclusion has been reached on the bilateral agreement.
The new regulations demand that a whole cattle herd has to be tested for Tuberculosis and Brucella bovis (lung sickness), which means a producer would have to test some 300 cattle before being able to export 20. The regulations render the export of sheep and goats equally impossible, as it implies 2 500 goats’ blood must be drawn every week, as Namibia exports that amount of goats weekly to SA.
Namibia exported 48 248 cattle and 52 450 sheep to SA between January and March this year.
Director of the Directorate of Veterinary services (DVS) Dr Milton Maseke told New Era that Namibian authorities are preparing for new engagements with SA authorities regarding the veterinary import permit. This issue will most certainly be taken up by the country’s highest authorities after a delegation from the Office of the Prime Minister recently met their counterparts in SA, he explained.
The chairperson of the Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO), Mecki Schneider, described the announcement as disturbing, upsetting and vague. Scheider expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which the regulations were announced by SA, saying both countries agreed in a recent meeting with delegations from SA and Namibia on the Standard Handling Procedure (SOP).
“Yet, South Africa has still not spelled out the SOP. As it is, Namibian producers are on their knees after consecutive droughts, input costs rise on average by seven percent per annum and now these stringent new import regulations will make it almost impossible for local producers to survive, as the weaner export industry to SA is the livelihood of some 70 percent of communal farmers,” Schneider lamented.
Urgent livestock industry meetings have been conducted by the Meat Board countrywide to prepare producers for the announcement, but the issue is still clouded by uncertainty over the SOP and the import permit.
The SA requirements aim to ensure consistency with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. One of the requirements is that the contents of a new official veterinary import certificate should accompany the standard handling procedure. This was implemented in accordance with the SA Animal Diseases Act of 1984, in view of the revised import requirements for cattle, sheep and goats from Botswana. Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.
General manager of the Meat Board Paul Strydom confirmed that the SA feedlot and abattoir industry are currently in consultation with that country’s veterinary authorities regarding the implementing of a new SOP.
The expected livestock import conditions from SA 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, in anticipation of the coming into effect of the new regulations.
Cattle producers north of the Veterinary Cordon Fence have for almost a year not had any 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.
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.
The Meat Board has been putting short, medium and long-term measures in place since 2013 in case of the new regulations coming into force. These measures include the transformation of the Namibian weaner industry to an oxen production system.
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.