Get your own house in order, South Africa!

Government’s new regulations for the importation of cattle, sheep and goats are misguided and unrealistic, says Mecki Schneider, chairperson of the Namibian Livestock Producers’ Organisation.

"New import regulations for cattle, sheep and goats from Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, as recently announced by the SA government, will affect the Namibian livestock industry severely as they had not been communicated beforehand. Namibia has been a net exporter of livestock to South Africa for over a century and the new veterinary-based requirements are not fully understood by the industry, especially producers.

This is particularly so because Namibia has a much higher internationally accepted veterinary status than South Africa, confirmed by the latest evaluation of the International Organisation on Animal Health conducted in October last year. Simply put, there is no uncontrolled exportation of livestock from Namibia to South Africa. Every truckload has to be accounted for and strict requirements have to be adhered to. All livestock (in officially sealed trucks) are destined for slaughter or feedlots as per regulation. Deficiencies on the South African side are out of Namibia’s hands.

Claims have also been made that cattle are exported from Namibia to South Africa under the pretext that the animals are meant for slaughter. But special regulations are in place for stud breeding material and these are adhered to as far as Namibia is concerned. Again, if female livestock are not destined for either feedlots or direct slaughter, it is up to South Africa to take action against the transgressors.

It is unfair to penalise Namibia’s producers under the smokescreen of veterinary requirements because South Africa has trouble enforcing regulations within its borders. Namibia’s livestock producers, on the other hand, would be delighted if South Africa were to regain its foot-and-mouth disease-free status, because, as things stand, a great deal of strain is placed on Namibia’s veterinary status internationally.

(South Africa has in the meantime regained its foot-and-mouth disease-free status- Ed). Namibia exports beef and lamb to the EU and elsewhere, and inspections are strict. The lower veterinary status of Namibian neighbours is always a bone of contention. It should be stated categorically that Namibia’s animal health status has never endangered South Africa’s veterinary status. The problem lied in ineffective control of animal diseases – especially foot-and-mouth in buffalo – within South Africa.

This is another reason Namibia finds it hard to understand the new and unrealistic veterinary requirements relating to the export of livestock. The country sees it as a trade barrier supported by producer organisations. It has to be asked why these strict restrictions are in place for livestock but not for game, which poses a much higher risk of animal disease.

No threat
Namibia’s livestock producers depend on the SA market. But there is a misconception that Namibian livestock imports have a major influence on SA red meat producer prices. Namibian weaners amount to only about 11% of the total feedlot throughput and obviously do not have a drastic impact on the beef producer price.

Livestock producers in both countries have gone through difficult times recently due to the severe drought. This has resulted in an increase in Namibia’s exportation of weaners to South Africa. Namibia has also had to deal with reduced auction prices in that country and in South Africa. However, the past year was abnormal. Due to the drought, Namibia needs to build up its national herd again.

Severe strain
It should also be borne in mind that the SA economy is under severe strain and commodities such as red meat are under pressure as consumer resistance increases. The answer to higher livestock producer prices lies in growing South Africa’s economy, not in restrictions of imports from a small neighbouring country. Producers in Namibia and South Africa have to face up to the real challenge: meat imports from countries that either produce at lower input costs or are subsidised.
We have to unite our efforts to fight this!

Contact Mecki Schneider at 00264 81 129 2632 or [email protected].

The views expressed in our weekly opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Farmer’s Weekly.