JOHANNESBURG – South Africa will know if it will regain its status as a meat and venison exporter to the European Union (EU) next month, after the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) meets in Paris to decide whether SA has complied with requirements to contain foot-and-mouth disease.
Agriculture minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Tuesday SA was still “negotiating” to regain its access to the lucrative EU market.
Though SA is a net importer of beef, mutton and pork it has been able to export beef and venison under certain provisions.
The ban had cost the country an estimated R4 billion, Zokwana said. SA was targeting parts of Asia, and a delegation of Chinese officials was expected to visit SA to assess import prospects from SA, he said.
SA was audited in December and the OIE’s scientific committee meets next month to decide whether the country has complied with all the bio-health safety requirements necessary to remain free of foot-and-mouth disease.
SA lost its status in 2011 but was declared disease-free in February last year. SA has been able to export only on a limited scale until the organisation is satisfied SA has met all the requirements.
Game Abattoir and Meat Exporters of SA chairman Piet Neethling said yesterday SA had been able to export only zebra meat for the past four years since it lost its foot-and-mouth disease-free status. Exports amounted to 450 tonnes a year over the period.
Neethling was not overly optimistic that SA had been able to get all its controls in place to retain its export status.
“I would be the happiest man in the country if I am proven wrong.”
The industry has tried to find new markets such as the Middle East and Far East but has had limited success. The taste of venison has not been as popular as it has been in the EU.
Agricultural Business Chamber chief executive officer John Purchase said it was good news the ban had been lifted. It was critical SA maintained bio-safety protocols to prevent new cases of foot-and-mouth developing in the Kruger National Park or the northern KwaZulu-Natal region bordering Mozambique.
“Our markets have been affected, but we are not a big meat exporter. The main issue is our venison, and that is a market that has been growing.”
Purchase said venison was a niche product and SA could find new markets for it. “Market development is a public-private partnership, and this is where we often battle.
The question is, how can business and government work together? Because we are competing against other countries for the same access. We are not good enough in market development. It is a challenge.”
The main concern was the lack of trust between the government and business, Purchase said.
“This is harming the economy . . . When we speak to our competitors such as Chile and Australia, who are also trying to access high-value markets in Europe, you cannot believe how closely government and industry work together.”