Namibian beef leaves for USA

20 February 2020 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT



Meatco reached another major milestone yesterday when it sent its first commercial consignment of beef to the United States of America, making Namibia the first African country to export beef to the USA.

A total of 25 tonnes of beef was sent to Philadelphia.

Meatco board vice-chairperson Ronald Kubas said the US market access agreement allows Namibia to export 860 tonnes of beef in the first year and 5 000 tonnes by the fifth year.

Meatco produces 26 000 tonnes of beef annually, therefore the US market has the potential to take a large chunk of what is produced, said Kubas.

“Today’s consignment is 25 tonnes of mostly deboned chuck and blade. Our customer has been in the business for over 32 years. They work with several US processors and with raw material from many origins including South and Central America, Europe and now Namibia. Their customer base consists of retail and wholesale sector.”

Kubas said Meatco had been hard at work over the last few years to enable access to the US market and was looking to penetrate new lucrative markets to get maximum returns for producers.

“Meatco Namibia supplies international customers with a high-quality meat product that has cemented itself across key markets including the European Union, Norway, the United Kingdom, Reunion and selected countries in Africa. In recent years, Meatco also penetrated the vast Chinese market.”

In 2016, the US department of agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) added Namibia to the list of countries eligible to export meat and meat products to the country.

Namibia’s minister of international relations, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said that in 2002 and again in 2005, the government initiated negotiations on the export of beef to the USA.

“Today, 18 years later, we are able to finally export meat to the lucrative and big US market. I think this may be one of the longest protocols ever that the FSIS of USA and the Namibian Directorate of Veterinary Service (DVS) had taken to ensure that all technical areas are cleared and are in accordance with various established protocols.”

She said yesterday’s shipment was the first commercial consignment, following numerous samples sent over the last 24 months for thorough testing and sampling at American laboratories.

Under the agreement, Meatco will be exporting boneless, raw beef cuts such as chuck and blade, in frozen or chilled form.

“The strategy for this particular market is to target the fast food industry and franchises like McDonald’s to provide maximum returns for Meatco and our producers,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said

According to her, this is a niche market that has opened for Meatco.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said this new market should encourage Namibian farmers to be more innovative to increase their production while maintaining standard and quality.

“With good rains in a large part of country this year, I urge all the farmers to work harder, increase production and expand our share around the world. We must strive to make quality beef one of our unique comparative advantages.”

The US ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, said Meatco’s high-quality beef has enabled Namibia to become the first African country to export beef to the US.

She said Meatco had submitted itself to rigorous tests of its beef products and processes in order to gain access to the US market and would be regularly audited.

Meatco will benefit from duty-free beef exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

“Namibia will benefit economically from tapping into the largest consumer market with purchasing power of US$13 trillion and US consumers will benefit from access to Namibia’s high-quality, free-range, grass-fed and hormone- and antibiotic-free beef.”

Public enterprises deputy minister Veikko Nekundi emphasised that Meatco should source animals from deep in the rural areas, including from non-commercial farmers.

Trade minister Tjekero Tweya echoed these sentiments and said that farmers in the northern communal areas (NCA) were still excluded from the international markets because of the veterinary cordon fence.

However, according to Nandi-Ndaitwah, Meatco had committed itself to finding a market for NCA farmers within the first quarter of this year.

Kubas further said that the Namibian livestock industry contributes about N$3.9 billion to the GDP annually, with Meatco contributing around 50%.

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