Operations at the Meatco Oshakati abattoir has been halted in their tracks since the beginning of the year and all exports to South Africa as the main market have been banned, due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in January in the Kavango East and Zambezi Regions.

Indications are that the abattoir will only open its doors in April amidst increasing slaughtering demands from producers in communal areas as the drought of 2015 are forcing them to sell their livestock while still in reasonable condition. Meatco expects the problem to be cleared up by April but no fixed dates have been communicated by South Africa and it could take six months for the FMD cases to be cleared up. Confirming that the master veterinary import permit issued to Meatco Namibia (Oshakati) for the importation of boneless beef cuts from the Oshakati abattoir has been cancelled with immediate effect after the outbreak, Dr Mpho Maja, Director : Animal Health in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa, says his ministry has decided on the action despite the fact that the Meatco Oshakati abattoir is situated in the protected zone and Meatco sources its animals for export to South Africa from this zone while the MFD has been detected in the infected zone (Kavango East and Zambezi). But South African authorities do not recognise the distinction between the two zones at the moment, and treats the entire Northern Communal Areas as one health zone.

As a result, because of the FMD in the infected zone, both the protected and infected zones are restricted from exporting products, and subsequently operations are on hold. Revealing the compounding situation for desperate communal famers who now have nowhere to go with their weakening animals due to the drought, procurement officer at the Oshakati abattoir, Chucks Ashikuuwa, says Meatco is going the extra mile having a series of meetings with producers to explain the crippling situation to them. “It is very sad that South Africa does not distinguish between the two zones, and, therefore, won’t accept meat from our Oshakati abattoir. Producers in the area are under tremendous pressure to sell the animals for slaughtering as their grazing is depleted in virtually all regions. I receive requests from farmers on a daily basis to slaughter but South Africa is the main market and that door will be closed until at least April or June,” he laments.

Ashikuuwa says the Oshakati abattoir usually starts slaughtering in February and since 2007, and last year, the abattoir slaughtered on average between 5 600 and 11 200 cattle per year for exports to South Africa.

Dr Maja says the Directorate: Animal Health of South Africa has decided to put trade restrictions in place on the import of cloven hoofed animals and products derived from cloven hoofed animals originating from the FMD protection zone in Namibia. Namibia is divided into two animal health zones by the International Organisation for Animal Health (IOAE): the FMD-free without vaccination zone (SVCF) and the zone with no recognized status (NCA).

News Reporter