Fuming farmers from the length and breadth of the country have now accused South African authorities of using an animal health issue as an excuse to create a trade barrier for Namibian livestock, calling it nothing short of bullying tactics.
Irate farmers at an open day of the Meat Board last week expressed their frustration with the new livestock import rules implemented by South Arica on July 1 and they urged the Namibian government to immediately address the situation. This comes three weeks after the border with SA was for all practical purposes closed for Namibian exports on July 1.
Since then, the Namibian livestock industry of some N$2.2 billion has grinded to a halt with no animals leaving the country.
Two weeks ago, the vice-president of the Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU) Abdal Mutjavikus also asked for immediate government intervention to halt the implementation of the almost impossible new South African livestock import regulations that will be catastrophic to the local livestock industry.
The NNFU, as representative of most communal and emerging farmers, says the negative consequences of these requirements will lead to drastic reduction in export volumes and massive losses of export revenue earnings for the country and the entire sector.
The NNFU and producers across the country have now raised their voices, demanding that government brings the new import regulations of South Africa to the attention of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and put it on the agenda of the WTO Committee in October so that the world can see what SA is doing to Namibian producers.
Namibia was set to present its case before the Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary (SPS) Committee of the WTO in a bid to mitigate the new stringent livestock import restrictions by South Africa in March this year already but it did not materialise.
A few weeks ago, the Namibian Agricultural Union officially requested President Hage Geingob to intervene to help save the industry.
LPO chairperson Mecki Schneider has 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.”
The Meat Board has since 2013 been putting short-, medium- and long-term strategies in place in case of a scenario such as the one unfolding now.
These measures include the transformation of the Namibian weaner industry to an oxen production system.
The WTO was already in March informed about the expected consequences of the new rules and a Namibian delegation including representatives from the Directorate of Veterinary Services, the Agricultural Trade Forum and agricultural unions, as well as the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development was set to address the WTO.
General manager of the Meat Board Paul Strydom confirmed that the Meat Board, in cooperation with the Directorate of Veterinary Services, the Trade Forum, agricultural unions and the Directorate of Planning, is fully prepared to state Namibia’s case in light of South Africa’s new requirements. No animals from Namibia have been exported since July 1 when the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) revised import requirements applicable to imports of live cattle, sheep and goats from neighbouring countries came into effect.
The new regulations demand that an entire cattle herd has to be tested for tuberculosis and Brucella bovis (lung sickness).
Strydom was quoted as saying although there were negotiations between Namibia and South Africa about the import regulations, and a deal was approved on how the exports should be entertained, this never materialised.
“We are still busy negotiating and currently goats and sheep have left the country, but no cattle have been exported due to the conditions.”
Namibia exports around 240 000 weaners, 140 000 sheep and 240 000 goats per year to South Africa.
Strydom said that the Meat Board’s argument against the import regulations is that the SOPs that were gazetted are much higher than those required by the World Organisation for Animal Health and this must be addressed. He stressed that this is not to have a legal case at the WTO committee, but to have it on the agenda and have it open for the public and other countries to observe what SA is doing. Meat Board’s Manager for Trade, Goliath Tujendapi said: “It is a trade barrier for us and when bringing it to the WTO, we must tell them this.”