RPO meets Namibian counterparts to discuss meat saga

MEat industry roleplayers met to discuss an Agri Inspec report that alleges that Namibian exporters are passing off large cattle as weaners on their export documentation.

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The roleplayers included the leaders of Namibia’s Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO), the Namibia Agricultural Union, the Red Meat Producers Organization of South Africa (RPO), the South Africa Meat Industry Forum and Agri Inspec, investigators working for the RPO. This followed the RPO conference where Agric Inspec’s Dr Hennie Kleynhans said Namibian delegates didn’t attend to find a solution to problems at the border, but “to learn who our sources are in order to shut us down”.

 Agri Inspec was hired by the RPO in 2009 to look into irregular red meat imports from neighbouring countries. The investigation implicated the Meat Board of Namibia – the issuer of export permits and collector of export levies – and precipitated something of a cold war between the Namibian and South African meat industries.

The Meat Board of Namibia claimed it had not been presented with concrete evidence and that any documentation irregularities took place on the South African side. Kleynhans repeatedly accused the leadership of the board of lying to protect themselves. He refused to back down and warned the RPO conference the planned meeting would be “extremely unpleasant”.

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He didn’t attend in the end, and it appears his absence may have been negotiated, though leaders of the LPO and the RPO wouldn’t confirm this. They referred all questions about the meeting back to a diplomatically co-written press statement.The statement conceded that irregularities do take place “on a limited scale,” but sidestepped allegations of corruption. “Problems centre around under-declarations of values and numbers of livestock and this impacts on VAT payments in South Africa,” it said.

The statement said it had been proposed that standard values for the different classes of livestock be created, and that the whole import process be streamlined, following discussions with the SA Revenue Service and the Department of Agriculture.