Following the Ministry of Agriculture in Botswana’s announcement that the country would be opening its borders to live cattle exports with immediate effect, the South African Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO) has expressed serious concerns.
According to CEO of RPO, Gerhard Schutte, this trade directive, issued by the Botswana government, would be in effect until 31 March 2020, and included exports to South Africa.
He said that while this was permitted in terms of the free trade agreement between members of the South African Development Community (SADC), it could result in a drop in local prices, putting further financial pressure on local commercial and developing cattle farmers.
“South Africa’s beef producers are already under tremendous pressure because of issues such as ongoing drought and ever decreasing profit margins. This unilateral decision by Botswana is, therefore, extremely disappointing,” Schutte said.
According to the Botswana government, 30% of the country’s national cattle herd was now earmarked for exports, in an effort to try and alleviate the plight of drought-stricken farmers in that country.
Schutte added that the Botswana Meat Corporation was also in the process of increasing exports of stored beef to South Africa, adding further pressure on the local beef production industry.
The RPO assured local beef producers that it would ensure that the imports were conducted according to existing South African import regulations.
The importation of livestock from neighbouring countries for slaughter purposes were carried out in accordance with the guidelines set out by the World Organisation for Animal Health, which provided for, among other considerations, compulsory health certificates to ensure imported animals did not affect the country’s disease status.
The measures further stipulated that the exported animals needed to be sent directly to abattoirs and feedlots in South Africa for slaughter.
Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development’s director for animal health, Dr Mpho Maja had also been notified of the matter.
“Standard operational procedures between South Africa and Botswana still needed to be finalised and the RPO was one of the stakeholders in the process,” Schutte said.
“As such, the procedures would be established in consultation with the broader South African red meat industry.”
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.