and Kuzeeko Tjitemisa
WINDHOEK – Meatco, the country’s premier meat processing and marketing entity, and the Meat Board of Namibia, the regulatory authority for livestock and red meat, have both appealed that proper animal disease control measures be put in place before removing the so-called northern veterinary cordon fence.
Ideally, this would mean erecting a fence on the Namibian-Angolan border to grant international market access to the approximately 1.6 million cattle in the Northern Communal Areas, the industry said. Many stakeholders at the second national land conference ending today in Windhoek, including some regions, suggested that the fence be removed.
“If we tamper with the fence then Namibia’s bilateral meat export agreements, valued at roughly N$3 billion per annum, would be put in jeopardy,” warned Meat Board’s Chief Marketing Officer Desmond Cloete.
He explained that north of the fence is considered a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) free zone (with vaccination), while south of the line is deemed a free zone (with no vaccination), with the latter being a more favourable trading condition for international destinations.
In response to questions from New Era, Meatco’s Manager for Corporate Affairs Rosa Thobias said the company views the fence purely as an animal disease control mechanism.
“If the fence is removed without putting proper animals’ diseases control measures then the animal disease status of the different zones in the country will change and that implies losing of the lucrative international markets for beef and time will tell on the rest,” she said.
“We cannot however, deny that the farmers who are on the other side of fence feel they do not benefit from lucrative marketing opportunities.”
She added that it is imperative for various stakeholders, including government, to work out modalities for farmers on the other side of fence to access marketing opportunities just as their counterparts on the other side.
“This is achievable and these modalities are clearly articulated in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that provided for standards for trade of meat and meat products from the FMD infected zones,” Thobias noted.
At the land conference, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Percy Misika said the FMD and CBPP (lung sickness) status for the northern areas remains unchanged.
Misika said so far, three schools of thought to address the issue are the removal of the fence, the translocation of the fence to the northern border with Angola and the creation of Food and Mouth Disease (FMD) and CBPP free zones within a 30km km zone on both the Namibian and Angolan side.
He added that all these should be done in line with the World Organization for Animal Health standards.
According to Misika the pros and cons of options Namibia’s FMD Free zone will lose its disease-free status, if the fence is removed immediately.
He concurred that this will also lead to loss of market access to regional and international markets.
Misika also agreed that the trans-locating the fence to borders with Angola is the most plausible. He cautioned however that this will be costly and will take time to secure the adequate financial resources.
“There is a need to establish the exact coordinates of the borderline which would require representatives from Namibia, Angola and observers from SADC and AU,” he said, adding that this will require buy-in, cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders.
He said astronomic costs including regular disease surveillance, border patrols, fence maintenance, personnel to man the border gates and the erection of quarantine facilities.
“The area was a war zone, hence the need for demining before the construction of the fence may delay the process,” he added.
He said the third option requires vaccination against FMD and CBPP in Namibia’s protection zone and 30km into Angola for a stretch of about 600 km, intensive surveillance, animal identification and traceability on both sides, ability to detect disease rapidly, ability to respond to disease outbreaks effectively, ability to prevent disease incursion, demonstration of the absence of the disease through surveillance.
“Vaccinating animals in the protection zone and 30km into Angola for a stretch of about 600 km is too costly for Namibia and unsustainable,” he warned.