Windhoek — The immediate future of Namibian livestock exports to South Africa is balancing on a knife's edge in anticipation of the outcome of high-level discussions between the two countries, as a result of newly proposed veterinary requirements for livestock exports to South Africa.
The Namibian meat industry has thrown its weight behind local producers in an attempt to have the requirements reviewed and have stalled the South African authorities momentarily. If implemented as proposed, the new requirements could see a dramatic drop in the export of Namibian livestock to South Africa and result in a situation that was yesterday described as "very serious." Chairperson of the Livestock Producers Organisation, Mecki Schneider, has raised objections with the Directorate of Veterinary Services, resulting in two urgent meetings with the director, Dr John Shoopala, in cooperation with the Meat Board and the Animal Health Consultative Forum. During the meetings it was concluded that the grace period provided by South Africa, which only until February 18 should be used to try and persuade the South African authorities to relaxe the proposed requirements, as it will have devastating consequences for the Namibian export industry and local producers.
Namibia exported 389 205 live sheep and goats to South Africa last year, as well as 252 710 cattle and 35 424 pigs. Confirming the latest development Schneider described some of the proposed requirements by South Africa as 'impossible' to meet at such short notice and a 'potential disaster' for local exporters, particularly small stock producers. Namibia's objections were communicated to the RSA Veterinary department earlier this month and the implementation of the proposed requirements has been put on ice for the time being following an initial meeting of local role players. The requirements were discussed again during a subsequent meeting this week.
The requirements inter alia include individual identification of sheep, proof of vaccinations against anthrax at least 14 days, but not longer than 12 month ahead, proof of treatment of internal and external parasites, proof of origin of herds free of any sicknesses. Schneider says if these new requirements were to be implemented after the final round of discussions with their South African counterparts on February 18, it would result in a disastrous situation for Namibian producers. The South African Veterinary department surprised the Namibian cattle and sheep export market at the start of the New Year with the new series of requirements for exports to South Africa. Schneider says the industry was caught off-guard by the requirements and the implementation date.
"The requirements for individual sheep are ludicrous and we can't give the new rules a nod as we will shoot ourselves in the foot. There must be some way out of this and all our hopes are now on reaching an agreement to first postpone the proposed deadline and then discuss the other issues on February 14 at the meeting with South African authorities. Namibia is a net export country and its producers rely on the income from this valuable source. If implemented as proposed, we will be doomed," he said. In the meantime beef exports to South Africa will continue as usual.