Windhoek — Namibia has sealed a deal to export bone-in beef from the country's northern communal areas (NCAs) to Zimbabwe, which will commence immediately once the collection points for cattle to be slaughtered have been identified in the NCAs.
It is the first time Namibia will be exporting beef on the bone, as currently only deboned beef is exported to South Africa (80 percent), Europe (10 percent), while the rest of the locally produced beef lands on the local market.
The agreement is to export a one-off quota of 1 000 tons of beef spread over 20 months with a monthly quota not exceeding 50 tons to help communal farmers whose animals are dying daily due to the severe drought that Namibia currently faces.
The beef will come primarily from farmers who are currently involved in the Community Based Rangeland and Livestock Management (CBRLM) project and other farmers in the NCAs.
The meat will be derived from the Meatco Oshakati abattoir, which is an export rated slaughter facility. The only consistent market for Namibian beef has been South Africa where only deboned beef is allowed into the country.
The part of the NCAs targeted for exports to Zimbabwe stretches from Kavango East to northern Kunene in the west, with the regions of Kavango West, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Oshana and Omusati in between.
Officially announcing the commencement of exports of bone-in beef was the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, who said his ministry is working very hard for the Zambezi Region to eventually attain international recognition in terms of livestock being free of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease, which is set to be granted by the World Organisation for Animal Health. Zambezi Region lies between the infected neighbouring zone to the east and the country's FMD-free zone to the south.
The idea follows vigorous consultative meetings by livestock marketing cooperatives, the agriculture ministry, the Zimbabwean embassy and the Meat Board of Namibia that eventually successfully motivated the marketing in Zimbabwe of bone-in beef from the NCAs.
Mutorwa said the potential success is of great significance to both countries, in that it comes at a time when Namibia is experiencing the most serious drought in decades and so far has resulted in the loss of many cattle and small stock.
"Zimbabwe has agreed after considering safety measures that we apply to import bone-in beef from the FMD protection zone. This is the first time it has been possible," announced Mutorwa. He said Zimbabwe despite its own economic challenges has agreed to open its markets for "our beef", in response to Namibia's plea for assistance during the current drought year.
Mutorwa, however, stressed that the opening of trade door is not by any means one-sided: "We shall look forward to reciprocal trade for the mutual benefits of our two countries."
Moreover, the minister assured the Zimbabwean government that Namibian beef that will be exported will be of high standard in terms of quality and safety and that it will meet all the sanitary requirements of that country.
"Collaboration between our two countries has been excellent and covers a number of sectors that are too many to enumerate here. It is our sincere hope that this friendship continues to grow from strength to strength for the benefit and socio-economic development of our people," he maintained.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Namibia, Chipo Zindoga said Namibia's idea was a "godsend as it resonates with our thoughts at the embassy of wanting to alleviate the plight of farmers whose cattle are dying from the drought".
"It is normal that when meat is being exported from country A to country B there would be fears that there could be diseases in the meat since the request was to export boned meat. We managed to allay those fears after having been assured by the professionals. We have faith in both the Namibian and Zimbabwean veterinary doctors in both the Namibian ministry of agriculture and the community-based rangeland and livestock project," she said.
She revealed that Zimbabwe has already issued the permits, and therefore she hoped there would be no unnecessary delays in exporting the beef.
Further, Zindoga was hopeful that Namibia would look at importing products such as pork, chicken, fruit and vegetables which, she said, are in demand in the northern areas of the country.
"I am aware that Namibia has infant industry protection on chickens but this is an issue that can be discussed at the bilateral level. It would be uneconomical for those refrigerated trucks to drive back all the way from Zimbabwe empty. We need to promote reciprocal trade between our countries to achieve regional integration," said the Ambassador.
Namibia and Zimbabwe also enjoy good political relations dating back to the dark days of the liberation struggle of both countries. Hence Zindoga feels time has come for both countries to translate those political relations deeper into economic cooperation which has been lagging for a long time.
She urged Namibian business people to look beyond Zimbabwe's previous economic challenges by doing business with her country.
By Albertina Nakale
Written by Staff Reporter