By Bodwa Mbingo | 2017-09-23
The country’s agricultural sector, particularly cattle farmers have been dealt a huge blow following the suspension of Swazi beef exports to the European market.
The European Union (EU) has placed an indefinite ban on all beef imports from Swaziland as three buffaloes that are currently in the country and under quarantin at Malindza are being assessed and clarified for their foot and mouth disease (FMD) status. The suspension of Swazi beef exports to the EU is expected to exert pressure on the country's weakening economy as export revenue’s are set to fall due to lack of export bonuses to the farmers.
The three buffaloes that were donated to the country by the Zambians arrived in the country on September 3, 2017 in a move to assist the country increase its buffalo numbers as part of the kingdom's tourism drive.
The Swaziland Meat Industries Limited (SMI), a public company that buys cattle from farmers to slaughter for and then exports the beef has already advised local farmers that beef exports have been suspended and that while they will continue to purchase cattle from them for their local markets they will not be paying the required export bonuses.
In Europe, SMI exports beef into a number of countries within the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and the EU. These include Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the French Indian Ocean Islands of La Réunion and Mayotte. Quality standards are kept high especially at the beef plant which operates to an EU standard under the supervision of the Swaziland's Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) and is regularly audited by the EU and other customers. Outside of Europe, SMI's main markets are in the country and southern Mozambique where its flagship Simunye Beef and Pork brands are sought after by the majority of meat consumers.
The suspension was confirmed by Minister of Agriculture Moses Vilakati yesterday who disclosed that the move was triggered by the fact that information about the presence of the buffaloes in the country has subsequently been received by the EU as one of the their trading partners. He said the EU has since responded by advising the country to suspend all beef exports or issuance of export certificates until the FMD status of the buffaloes is clarified.
“The country has found it prudent to take advice and has duly suspended the exportation of beef to the EU and Norway. We are doing everything possible to ensure that the country remains FMD free,” he said.
The minister clarified that upon arrival in the country the buffaloes were accompanied by documents to the effect that they were tested for the disease with negative results.
He said despite testing negative, as a country with FMD free status, Swaziland had to take precautionary measures which include quarantining them at Malindza; taking blood samples to South Africa to confirm the initial test; and ensuring that all dip tanks within a 10km radius from where the buffaloes are isolated are under quarantine.
The minister said while they await the results from South Africa continuous testing using different methods will be done while the buffaloes remain isolated to ensure they remain negative. Meanwhile, beef exports to Europe are becoming a major industry in Southern Africa.
Especially countries like Botswana and Namibia - which have strict food quality controls following EU regulations - have seen commercial cattle raising becoming a major export industry.
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