On 26 August 2014 the South African Feedlot Association (Safa) announced that the new livestock regulations introduced by the South African authorities in May had been “suspended with immediate effect”. The Namibian Agricultural Union described this as “good news”, since the stricter SPS measures introduced in May 2014 had reportedly been resulting in daily losses of N$2.3 million to the Namibian livestock sector. This was a consequence of the loss of a market for 160,000 animals which on average delivered “a 20% higher price than what they allegedly fetch locally”.
However, it was reported that the economic losses to farmers have not been as bad as they could have been, since “good and sufficient grazing in the bigger commercial area of Namibia and in most communal areas” enabled producers to keep their livestock in a healthy condition during the current recent market disruptions.
According to Safa’s director general, “Safa’s objections to the revised import requirements have been upheld by SA’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,” with recent acknowledgement from the South African Minister that “there was insufficient inclusive consultation.” In this changed context, a new process of more inclusive consultations will shortly be initiated.
According to press reports, it is expected that the trade situation “will return to normal in about three months”, with exports taking place on the basis that existed prior to the introduction of the new regulations in May. This means that livestock:
- must originate from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Free Zones and must not come from areas within a “5km radius of any farm under restriction for Rift Valley and may not transit through a Rift Valley Fever infected zone”;
- must not originate from a farm under veterinary restrictions;
- must be identified by a permanent mark or eartags and must be identifiable on the Namibia Animal Identification and Traceability System (NamLITS).
In addition, the exporters “are also required to obtain a permit from the Registrar of Livestock Improvement of South Africa except if the animals are intended for direct slaughter”.
According to the Meat Board of Namibia, the suspension of the new requirements “leaves opportunities for further negotiations between the Veterinary Services of Namibia and its counterpart in South Africa”. In the interim, the Meat Board is proceeding with the compilation of “dossiers for submission to the International Health Organisation via the Directorate Veterinary Services to declare Namibia free from rinderpest (small stock), lung sickness (cattle) and tuberculosis, thereby raising the national animal health status” of Namibian livestock.
It remains to be seen what will now become of plans to extend feedlot production in Namibia. (See Agritrade article ‘ New South African livestock import regulation highlights challenges in e...’, 21 August 2014 and ‘New investment in value addition in Namibian beef sector stimulated by secure market access’, forthcoming 2014.)
Once again, legal challenges by stakeholders have led to the overturning of trade regulations in Southern Africa – in this case new SPS regulations. The use of legal means to challenge government regulations, while an expression of a dynamic democratic society in which the rule of law protects against arbitrary action by the state, raises important policy issues related to the establishment of regional rules and regulations for the conduct of trade in agro-food products that reach beyond simply tariff negotiations.
The first preparatory stage of the SADC tripartite FTA negotiations (in which basic information was exchanged) is now coming to an end, and more detailed negotiations need to get under way. At this stage, establishing appropriate modalities for ensuring the inclusive involvement of stakeholders in standard setting is likely to gain in importance across the Southern and Eastern African region.
This will pose major new challenges for private sector producer associations, the strength of which varies from country to country. As a consequence of different economic levels of development or trade orientations, national associations may hold very different policy perspectives.
It will also pose challenges to national and regional agricultural and trade policy decision makers, who will need to get to grips with complex technical and scientific issues, against the background of often severe local capacity constraints.