SOUTHERN AFRICA - Export markets for beef products from Southern Africa are slowly opening up in the European Union and other international markets such as Hong Kong despite earlier scares over foot and mouth diseases and a drought that has ravaged the region, reports Tawanda Karombo for TheCattleSite.
The Southern African traditional power-house beef producers include Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. However, economic difficulties in Zimbabwe and diseases outbreaks in South Africa and other regional countries had curtailed exports into the lucrative international markets.
Namibia is however, bucking this trend as it has recently been allowed to export its beef products into Hong Kong after the signing of a raft of agreements on veterinary health conditions and requirements.
"I want to stress that this new market is open to all Namibians who wish to export beef to China and not for certain companies or individuals only. The government did not negotiate this market for a specific group of people or companies," said Dr Milton Maseke, chief veterinary officer at the country’s Directorate of Veterinary Services.
Hong Kong has become one of the major beef consuming and importing countries worldwide, alongside the EU, mainland China, Japan and Mexico. Under the new protocol signed with Namibia, the southern African country will be allowed to export to Hong Kong frozen deboned and bone-in meat, excluding head, feet, offal and viscera and other by-products.
Meatco is the biggest meat processor in Namibia and has already started work on the new markets. It runs abattoirs in Windhoek, the capital and in another city, Okahandja.
"The challenge is now up to Namibian abattoirs to conform to the strict Chinese standards for exports and for them to increase their production," an official said.
Namibia also exports beef to regional neighbour, South Africa. It currently ships as much as 17,000 tons of meat products, including beef, into South Africa each year. It also supplies about 10,000 tons of beef into the European Union, making it one of the biggest meat exporters in Africa.
Another African country that has potential to tap into the international beef export market is Botswana. However, the southern African country, which shares a border with Zimbabwe – a country struggling to prop up its struggling cattle rearing sector – remains embargoed by for beef exports by the EU although information at hand shows that member countries in the lucrative bloc are considering lifting the embargo.
The Botswana Meat Commission voluntarily withdrew from exporting beef products out of its Francistown abattoir in 2011 as result of an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease. Spill over effects from Zimbabwe, which has also battled to contain the disease, also worsened the foot and mouth disease outbreak situation for Botswana.
The country had to cull as many as 50,000 cattle in the affected regions and the cattle herds in the region have only just begun to grow, with experts from the EU conducting audits and surveys. Botswana has also become stricter on stray animals from Zimbabwe in a bid to contain the disease outbreak.
“It is hoped that in the next few months a decision will be taken on whether the (BMC) plant in Francistown can be open for export to the EU,” said John Taylor, trade counsellor with the EU Delegation to Botswana and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“Veterinary services closed exports to the EU sooner after every suspected FMD outbreak. And this has seen very positive in Europe showing the seriousness from veterinary services here in Botswana to ensure FMD does not get to Europe from Botswana,” he said.
Zimbabwe is another potentially lucrative prime producer of beef for export into the EU but the country’s beef sector has been struggling over the past few years. Farm invasions instituted by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government in 2000 destroyed the sector as it displaced prime farmers from their land.
The beef sector has also suffered from under investment, with the government run Cold Storage Commission struggling to sustain beef farming and abattoir operations across the country. It has however, recently said that it is courting investors to revive the collapsed beef sector which has also been worsened by farmers destocking as a result of the dry weather conditions hammering the southern parts of the country.