Raw deal for SA wool

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced that it will no longer issue clearing certificates for Rift Valley fever (RVF) for the exportation of raw wool and mohair to China, the largest importer of South African wool.

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The department said it was forced to take this decision as it has become ethically impossible to continue certifying that wool originated in and was exported from an area that is free from RVF, as required by China’s veterinary authority.

“China is the only country with this requirement and it means that South African wool buyers won’t be able to export raw wool to China which last season totalled R933 million,” said Ona Viljoen of Cape Wools.

The veterinary services directorate said it had been unsuccessful in its attempts to convince the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (AQSIQ) to comply with the recommendation of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

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Article 8.11.2 of the new OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code now clearly states that “hides, skins, wool and fibre” don’t need certificates on RVF-related conditions, regardless of the RVF status of the ruminant population of the exporting country.

Although China was a signatory of this protocol, the Chinese authorities still require certification by a state vet that the relevant import batch originates from an RVF-free area. Because RVF doesn’t occur in China, the AQSIQ considers it a key quarantine disease in accordance with Chinese law.

China also requires a waiting period of 12 months before wool from RVF areas will be allowed into the country. A technical delegation from the department is in China to discuss possible alternatives.

Last season, the wool shipped to China (raw and processed) represented 57,5% of the total South African wool exports. “The current uncertainty is causing wool textile mills to be cautious, buying only hand-to-mouth and holding very little stock,” noted Viljoen.

The mohair market shouldn’t be seriously affected by the Chinese ban as very little hair is exported there in greasy form.