US cattle farmers want Namibian beef imports stopped

The United States Cattlemen’s Association said the prevalence of food-and-mouth disease in Namibia presents a threat to the security of US cattle and food safety.

23 February 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT







WINDHOEK

Meatco says it is confident that there is no risk of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) being spread to the United States through beef produced in Namibia.

This after American farmers called on the US government to immediately stop importing beef from Namibia because of the recent outbreaks of FMD in the country.

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) made this appeal last Friday out of the fear that the FMD outbreaks north of the Veterinary Cordon Fence could have an impact on meat south of the red line.

The group said the prevalence of FMD in Namibia presents a threat to the security of US cattle and food safety.

The group also expressed concern about the country’s African buffalo population, considered to be a persistent carrier of FMD, which increases the possibility of the disease spreading south of the red line if wildlife breaches it, it said.

A thorough review of these ongoing concerns must be done before moving forward with any discussion of trade with Namibia, the USCA said.

“The acceptance of beef imports from countries with known FMD-positive cases in the immediate area of the supposed buffer zone is unacceptable, and puts our entire industry at risk. The USCA recommends the installation of a true buffer zone, free of multiple positive cases, or the buffer zone should be enlarged until the area is free of quarantined locations.”

Meatco's CEO Mwilima Mushokabanji told Namibian Sun that all beef is procured from the FMD free zone in Namibia without vaccination, which has been free from vaccination since 1965.

“Namibia has a proven and audited animal surveillance system and in a situation such as this is capable of early detection and reporting of animal diseases in any of the Namibian zones.”

He stressed that the reporting of FMD outbreaks are not a sign of weakness in the system, but rather a sign that the system is working effectively and can be relied upon.

Mushokabanji added that Namibia has a well-founded and demonstrative capacity to respond to FMD outbreaks without affecting trade.

Mushokabanji said that Meatco has been made of these concerns from the US, however they are not unique and they seemed to be based on fear rather than facts.

Guarding against threats

In a statement, USCA president Brooke Miller said now more than ever, the US needs to ensure there are strong health and safety standards in place within their food supply chain to guard against threats to their agriculture industry.

An outbreak within the US could result in US$14 billion in losses, including losses to farm income and the effect on consumers and international trade relations, he said.

“The US has not experienced an outbreak of FMD within our borders for almost 100 years – but in recent years, we continue to recklessly pursue trading relations with countries with known FMD outbreaks. Congress needs to employ its oversight role of the US department of agriculture and its pursuit of importing beef products from countries known to be infected with FMD.”

N$95m vaccination plan

The FMD outbreak in Namibia was first detected on 28 September 2020 in the Kavango East Region and has since spread to Kavango West, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Oshana.

It is now present in nine constituencies in these five regions.

Namibian Sun last week reported that government will spend N$95 million to vaccinate at least 500 000 cattle in northern Namibia where FMD continues to wreak havoc.

Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein said of the 800 000-strong cattle population in the north, government plans to vaccinate 500 000, adding that one million doses are needed for the northern regions, including Zambezi.

At the beginning of last year, Meatco sent its first commercial consignment of beef to America, making Namibia the first African country to export beef to the US.

Mushokabanji said that Meatco has exported 55 051 tonnes of beef to the US market since January to December last year.

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