Amended import requirements on livestock from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland: harmonization of veterinary requirements or a barrier to trade?
Willemien Viljoen, tralac Researcher, discusses the recent amendments to South Africa’s import requirements of livestock from the BLNS
On 17 April 2015 the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) published proposed revised import requirements for live cattle, sheep and goats imported from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS). According to the notice the revision was necessary to ensure consistency with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures. The notice states that although all member countries of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) are considered to have a similar status for animal disease the current import requirements differ among countries. This necessitated the revision and harmonisation of requirements among the SACU countries to ensure South Africa complies with Article 2(3) of the WTO SPS Agreement. According to this article ‘Members shall ensure that their sanitary and phytosanitary measures do not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between Members where identical or similar conditions prevail, including between their own territory and that of other Members. Sanitary and phytosanitary measure shall not be applied in a manner which would constitute a disguised restriction on international trade.’
The revised import requirements relate to the veterinary certificates to be issued by the country of origin. The requirements for sheep and goats differ vis-à-vis those applicable to the importation of cattle. Draft veterinary certificates for each BLNS country for the respective import products have been made available by DAFF. The certificates for cattle imports from the BLNS countries all have the same requirements, irrespective of the country of origin. These include that the origin and destination of the animals must be supplied, all animals must be transported from a country free from various animal diseases, each animal must be clearly identifiable and each animal must have been tested and vaccinated for specific diseases. The requirements in the draft certificates for sheep and goat imports are organized in the same fashion as the requirements for cattle imports – origin and destination of animals, animals originate from a country or zone free from specified diseases and the testing and vaccination requirement for each animal. However, the requirements for imports from Namibia differ in two respects from the requirements for the other SACU countries:
For the disease Brucella Mellitensis all goats and sheep imported from Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland need to be tested within 30 days prior to departure for South Africa. In the case of Namibia, the animals need not be tested as long as they originate from a farm that has been certified free of Brucella Mellitensis by the Namibian Veterinary Authorities.
In the case of sheep, breeding rams from Namibia are subject to a test for the disease Brucella ovis not required for rams imported from other SACU countries.
This is not the first publication of the revised requirements. These requirements first came to light on 3 February 2014 when letters were sent to various interested parties indicating that the requirements will come into effect on 1 May 2014. However, this method of notification and an inadequate consultation process led to a successful objection (in accordance with the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) of 2000) and the subsequent suspension of the implementation of the amended requirements.
After the initial publication of the proposed amendments in 2014 the Namibia Livestock Producers Organisation (LPO) stated that the biggest obstacle posed by the new import requirements relates to blood tests that need to be done on every animal. This requirement was questioned seeing that Namibia has a higher internationally accepted veterinary status than South Africa. Continuing with the implementation of the proposed measures can have devastating consequences for the Namibian meat industry. This is due to the importance of the South African market for the Namibian livestock industry. In 2014 South Africa imported approximately US$ 16 million and US$ 32 million worth of sheep and goats and cattle, respectively. The majority of these were imported from Namibia (97% of cattle and 96% of sheep and goats) with the remainder of livestock imports coming from other SACU countries. Apart from exports to South Africa, Namibia exports only a small percentage of livestock (approximately 4%) to other regional markets, including Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, farmers have now called upon the LPO to investigate the profitability and probability of increased exports to these markets if South Africa persists in implementing the revised requirements. According to the production organisations these revised measures are nothing more than a trade barrier disguised as the harmonization of veterinary requirements. This is especially the case given the international veterinary status of Namibia and the fact that these requirements are not applicable to game which poses a much higher risk of animal disease.
This is not the first time the motives for an SPS measure implemented by South Africa have been questioned. In recent years we have seen questions surrounding the ban on organic honey imports from Zambia and livestock imports from Namibia and import regulations applicable to certain agricultural products from only African countries. This latest publication of revised import requirements has led to concerns among regional producers that South Africa is limiting market access (especially for agricultural products) for the benefit of promoting their domestic industries.
World Organization for Animal Health (www.oie.int)