Foot-and-Mouth Disease and Market Access: Challenges for the Beef Industry in Southern Africa

By Ian Scoones and William Wolmer, Working Paper 1, 2008. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton. Transboundary animal disease and market access: future options for the beef industry in southern Africa
calendar icon 6 June 2008
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Focusing on the case of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in southern Africa – and specifically Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – this paper explores the economic, social and political trade-offs arising from different scenarios for gaining market access and managing and controlling FMD in support of beef production in southern Africa.

A central question is: does the current approach, premised on the ability to separate a „disease free. commercial sector from endemic areas through strictly enforced buffer and surveillance zones and movement control, make sense given new contexts and challenges? Are there other alternatives that benefit a wider group of producers, ensure food-safe trade, and are easier to implement, yet maintain access to important export markets and so foreign exchange revenues? Following an examination of the new contexts of disease dynamics and livestock trade in southern Africa, the paper explores a series of scenarios for market access including: trade with the European Union; direct exports to large retailers; export to emerging markets, particularly Asia; regional trade in southern Africa and domestic urban and rural markets. Given this assessment, the paper then asks: what makes most sense for the control and management of FMD?

In southern Africa arguments for persisting with the status quo have strong and influential supporters. The policy argument for safe trade based on area-based disease freedom and a strict separation of commercial, export-oriented herds from others is rooted in a strong science and policy international network, supported by well-funded and well-connected international institutions and commercial interests and has deep-rooted historical connections, with associated personal and institutional commitments within the region. As such it reflects a particular set of interests and assumptions. These sway national debates about appropriate measures for disease control sometimes blocking out alternative views and perspectives. But there are alternative views, with different implications for policy directions. In this paper we explore four scenarios, in addition to the standard approach,including: export zones with vaccination; compartmentalisation; commodity-based trade and managing FMD for domestic trade. Complementarities and trade-offs between different market access and disease control scenarios are explored, highlighting some important „win-win. opportunities which have, as yet, not been fully exploited.

The paper concludes that, given the evolving contexts for livestock production, transboundary diseases and trade, a major policy rethink is needed. If the full benefits of the „livestock revolution. are to be captured in southern Africa, this will require developing new responses and capacities, and abandoning inappropriate and out-dated policy frameworks. The paper argues that a diversity of complementary market access and disease control options will allow resilience to disease events and market shocks to be built and benefits to be more widely shared, as well as a more integrated and coordinated approach at regional level to emerge.


The presence of transboundary animal diseases, and the consequent escalating costs of regulation and meeting export standards, are key to the future of livestock production in Africa (ALive 2007; FAO 2005; Nelson 2005; Perry et al., 2005). Much policy concern is focused on meeting the high hopes of a „livestock revolution. as a spur to boosting stagnant agricultural sector growth (Delgado et al., 1999). Focusing on the case of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in southern Africa – and specifically Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – this paper explores the economic, social and political trade-offs arising from disease control strategies focused on promoting different scenarios for beef marketing and trade. A central question is: does the current approach, premised on the ability to separate a „disease free. commercial sector from endemic areas through strictly enforced buffer and surveillance zones and movement control, make sense given new contexts and challenges?

The conventional storyline that influences policy thinking holds that FMD-free countries are rich, while FMD endemic countries are not; without resources to control FMD and enter lucrative markets, FMD keeps countries poor, and the benefits of the livestock revolution cannot be attained. This, it is argued, is a vicious circle and one which justifies substantial public investment in disease control and eradication strategies, in order to gain „disease freedom.. As John McDermott, deputy director general for research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) puts it, „FMD is a major obstacle to productivity and market access in many of ILRI.s target regions, particularly South Asia, the Horn of Africa and southern Africa. It severely limits market opportunities for poor farmers and nations wishing to access more lucrative markets, both regionally and internationally.

SADCFANR (2003), for example, argue that poor livestock farmers are being excluded from the one livelihood sector they are engaged in with a high potential for growthand that this offers an opportunity for poverty reduction. To increase the quality and quantity of animal production for the domestic market and enter regional and international trade in livestock products there is therefore a need to control and manage FMD, they argue.

However, while these objectives may represent the ideal, the question arises: given limited resources and capacities and growing costs of meeting export standards, does it make sense to persist with an economically and politically fragile status quo and attempt to ensure area-based disease freedom? Or are there other alternatives that benefit a wider group of producers, ensure food-safe trade, and are easier to implement, yet maintain access to important export markets and so foreign exchange revenues?

A number of further, more specific, questions are, in turn, suggested:

  • How can 'safe trade' be ensured in disease-endemic areas? Is area-based disease freedom the only option?
  • Given particular epidemiological, economic and political contexts, how should major investments in disease eradication, control and surveillance be focused
  • What are the distributional and policy implications of different FMD control policies: who wins and who loses, and who should pay?
  • What combination of options is likely to be most resilient, given the likely shocks and stresses to the production system, from changing market conditions and disease ecologies?
These questions respond to a series of contemporary policy dilemmas, all high on policymakers. agendas in southern Africa:
  • How should animal diseases be managed in the context of expanding wildlife land-uses (and so more buffalo and other game) and redistributive land reform (and so more, smaller land units with mobile animals)?
  • Should a country attempt to comply with very demanding and apparently ever-increasing export standards or explore alternative markets and different interpretations of standards regimes?
  • How should all this be implemented when veterinary services and regulatory authorities are weak and under-resourced?
This paper seeks to provide some preliminary answers to these questions – or at least a framework for thinking about them. The following sections describe the history of FMD and its control in southern Africa as it relates to the marketing of beef; explore the new contexts that are changing the status quo, sketching potential new scenarios for marketing and disease control; and draw out the challenges for policy makers concluding with a schematic matrix of future scenarios and trade-offs.

Conclusion: future options, urgent choices

To conclude, we suggest that four big challenges lie ahead, indicating a variety of future options and some urgent choices for the southern African beef industry.

First, there is a need to recast the way technical and policy debates are framed. The assumption that what has always been must always be must be set aside in favour of a more forward looking view. For example Mark Rweneyamu (2007) offers a useful contrast between the way transboundary diseases are seen in the OECD and Africa/Asia. This has major implications for their management; yet, as we have seen, the framing of problems and responses in southern Africa remain firmly hooked into a set of prescriptions derived historically from Europe and which became institutionally and professionally embedded during the colonial era.

Table 2. Contrasting framings of transboundary diseases (after Rweneyamu, 2007)
OECD – TADS are exotic Africa/Asia – TADS are endemic
Prevention of incursion
Limitation of spread
Disease control
Detection of sub-clinical infection
Detection of disease
International disease intelligence
Local Surveilance for Disease Control
Expert knowledge base for exotic diseases
Low capacity for detection, identification and monitoring

The implication of this assessment (and indeed many others – see Scoones and Wolmer, 2006; Perry 2007), is that there is a need for an Africanization of the scientific and technical agenda, along with the policy agenda, one that starts from particular African conditions and contexts not from generalised models from elsewhere.

Second, and following on from this, a reassessment of the objectives of transboundary disease control measures needs to be undertaken, with a firmer linking of these to broader developmental and poverty reduction objectives (see Perry 2007a; Perry et al., 2002; Ashley et al., 1996, 1999; Ashley 200054; ILRI 2000; Perry et al., 2002; Hall et al., 2004; Heffernan et al., 2003; IFAD 2004). What pathways to poverty reduction and „pro-poor. economic growth are being sought at a national – or regional – policy level, and so what market options, and in turn what disease control/product safety strategies, make most sense? How, in other words, can they reduce poverty, increase growth and ensure safe meat is marketed? With a range of scientifically-accepted options for disease control/product safety assurance and an array of different market options available to livestock producers, the choice of what combination is not obvious. As Figure 1 illustrates, different options may exist in parallel, but not all are as effective for delivering poverty reduction and economic growth together. What combination makes sense will, of course, depend, but, as the country studies have shown clearly, it is often not the status quo.

Third, given these dilemmas, some hard thinking about how control measures for transboundary diseases are paid for must be undertaken in the southern African context. The long-running assumption has been that such measures are „public goods. (sometimes international ones), that are appropriately paid for by the public purse – either nationally or through international aid support. As we have seen, this is insufficient and inadequate for the task. Even if theoretically such a funding formula was appropriate, on-the-ground results are lacking, suggesting that private funds – from the livestock industry – are required to ensure that particular market options remain open. Seen in this light these are then more private goods, and with a number of the disease control/product safety measures (including compartmentalisation and commodity-based trade and the associated certification requirements of each) mechanisms for payment by producers and suppliers could be envisaged.

Fourth, much of this discussion points towards the need for much more effective policy coordination and coherence, combined with a greater rigour in linking development objectives and commitments to poverty reduction, meeting MDG targets and broader CAADP goals, and specific policies and strategies. Simply accepting a standard technical line from a veterinary department or a trade ministry – based on long held policy assumptions or guidelines and standards developed elsewhere – is clearly insufficient. A more rigorous, cross-sectoral impact assessment is required, often needing the bringing together of insights from epidemiology and economics (cf. Perry et al., 2001), but also, crucially, assessments of livelihoods and different people.s own perceptions and priorities. In this sense, the choices are not simply technical ones, but political ones requiring participatory deliberation and debate about trade-offs and consequences. An open, engaged policy process is the only way such complex and often intangible factors can be grasped in a holistic way. But given the often closed, technically-driven way policy decisions are currently made around these issues, where particular interests and expertises dominate, a different way of doing business remains a major challenge across the countries and within SADC as a whole.

While agreeing on the broad objectives – of poverty reduction, broad-based growth and safe trade - is easy, a detailed examination of different returns, costs and risks of different options is more difficult. This paper and the companion papers in this series offer a beginning, but by no means an end point. What are the next steps for southern Africa towards building high return, resilient and safe beef production and marketing systems, where returns are widely distributed often in highly unequal societies?

As the paper has shown, the highly dynamic contexts of contemporary settings means that such choices are vital and urgent. But the emerging debate on the intersection of disease control/product safety and marketing/trade suggest that, perhaps unusually in development, there are some win-win options – allowing the management and control of transboundary diseases such as FMD, while ensuring viable and safe trade. What are the key elements of the policy mix required for southern Africa?

  • The need for a diversity of options in any one country. There is no one-sizefits- all solution. There are multiple future scenarios, combining different disease and market responses (across the figure 1 matrix) in any setting.
  • The diversity of options will help build resilience (ability to respond to future shocks and stresses) at local, national and regional levels. Exposing a whole sector to one option – particularly one with a high risk of collapse – is to be avoided, and overall resilience can be built with a flexible policy response that incorporates a commitment to diversity.
  • There is a major need for regional coordination on a number of fronts. This is currently weak or lacking. For example, coordination on gaining market access to new markets and engaging in negotiation on international standards is a critical challenge, and one that SADC, COMESA and other regional bodies, under the auspices of AU/NEPAD frameworks, need to engage in with a matter of urgency, particularly given the growing global competition and the changes in preferential trade access faced by many
  • This, in turn, will require the enhancement of skills and capacities in negotiating in international standard-setting fora, building trust in new market settings, as well as basic market information on emerging market opportunities. Competence, skills, capacity requirements also exist in new areas arising from the market access options that have previously not been engaged with, such as HACCP risk assessment and certification for commodity-based trade. Some of this may emerge through private sector initiative, but there is a coordination, capacity building and information support role for the public sector and international development partners.
  • Overall, the trade-offs across development policy priorities notably between (export) trade and economic growth and poverty reduction and enhancing equity will have to be balanced. The rhetoric of .pro-poor growth. may hide trade-offs and multiple pathways of development and poverty reduction, especially when, as has historically been the case, the trickle down from high value, export oriented strategies does not result in broader based poverty reduction. A more integrated strategy will be needed, with public funds being focused on poverty/equity objectives, with support for private sector efforts to go for high value growth (and so different parts of the Figure 1 options matrix and not in the way funds have to date been allocated).

Further Reading

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May 2008

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