Red Line still a burning issue amid FMD

19 February 2021 | Agriculture



Mixed opinions were voiced at Rundu this week over the removal of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF).

Hambukushu chief Erwin Munika Mbambo demanded its removal, saying it was erected “without consultation” by the colonisers to “separate blacks and whites”.

However, agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein, who is currently in the Kavango East Region to assess the impact of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak, warned that such a rash decision would cost Namibia billions in revenue.

Mbambo argued that the removal of the fence has been made a big issue although it is not.

“This Red Line should be removed the same way it was set up. If there was no consultation, why should we take long on one issue?” Mbambo saide. “Those who established the Red Line, what criteria did they use during that time? Was there consultation with both traditional authority in the communal area and urban areas? If there was no consultation, why should this issue take long?

“If it was set up just to satisfy masters, I don't think this issue of Red Line is important to me. It's not important. It was set up there for political reasons so that the difference should be there between white area and black area during the colonial time which is now rural area. If that was the purpose, why is this issue of Red Line taking so long?”

Why we shouldn't rush

Schlettwein said although he agreed with Mbambo on the removal of the fence and the government would do what the people desired, the instant removal would have dire consequences for the economy.

He said although the fence was erected for political reasons, there needs to be proper assessment as to how best the Red Line issue is dealt with by the government.

Schlettwein said the country earned about N$2 billion a year from beef exports to the European Union (EU) alone, therefore people should look at the consequences of removing the veterinary fence without considering the risks.

One of the risks is that the current FMD-free areas would become FMD-risk areas, which would be catastrophic.

“The most frightening consequence is that the whole Namibia will be now an FMD animal disease space, that's it,” Schlettwein said.

“So, if we choose to live in a situation where we produce livestock where the disease is prevalent, then we can take that decision and remove any restriction that will enable us to control this disease.

“We must be clear on this option. We can do it but I will not advise that it is the best option and I can tell you why it is not an option.”

Schlettwein added that Namibians consume only 30% of the beef produced in the country and the rest is exported.

Therefore if Namibia opts to remove the Red Line and become an FMD risk country, much of the meat would go to waste.

Three options

Schlettwein said a document had been compiled to address issues in the agriculture sector and it focuses on how the Red Line can be dealt with to benefit farmers north and south of the fence alike.

He said the document would be shared with stakeholders for their input in order to find an amicable solution to the issue.

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