Namibia-China beef agreement of ‘dubious value’

A five-year agricultural trade agreement between Namibia and China, widely publicised in the Namibian media, is reportedly of no immediate use to beef exporters.

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Although highly placed Namibian officials were quoted as saying the deal would open up China for Namibian beef, the animal health and quarantine co-operation agreement signed on 16 December last year does not set out specific sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, beef volumes or meat prices.

“There is nothing new about it. It is not possible under this agreement to start exporting meat. Therefore the value of this agreement is dubious. It is not worth the paper it is written on,” said one agricultural expert who did not wish to be named. Paul Strydom, managing director of the Meat Board, confirmed that skins, hides, offal cuts and certain meats were considered economically viable for export to China, but there was still much to be sorted out before exports could commence.

The agreement calls for protocols outlining “animal quarantine and health requirements for import, export and transit of animals and products of animal origin”. But Jürgen Hoffmann of the Agricultural Trade Forum said, “The annexes in which these protocols are captured still need to be written.”

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In addition, veterinary standards and certificates have to be agreed on and exporters will need to get an import agreement from the Chinese authorities. “All this makes it difficult to make a market-related offer to the Chinese,” commented Hoffmann.

According to an inside source, it will be at least two years before Namibian beef is exported to China. Namibia’s largest beef exporter, Meatco, said it was “premature” and “speculative” to comment on beef exports to China. “There are protocols and legal procedures that need to be finalised before trade can take place. The Namibian and Chinese governments are in discussion,” said Meatco spokesperson Mario Poolman.