New laws open beef market opportunities

Recent changes to international regulatory standards around Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) will make a big difference to livestock producers across southern Africa.

In the past, thousands of kilometres of fencing  were erected to separate cattle from buffalo, which carry Foot-and-Mouth Disease.
In the past, thousands of kilometres of fencing were erected to separate cattle from buffalo, which carry Foot-and-Mouth Disease.

The updated OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code makes it possible for African countries with wild species like buffalo that naturally harbour the disease to trade beef without requiring the physical separation of wildlife and livestock through the extensive veterinary cordon fencing that has characterised animal disease management in southern Africa since the colonial era.

In Zimbabwe, with large populations of FMD-carrying buffalo, this has long been a major challenge. In the past, a massive amount of funding was spent on trying to keep buffalos and livestock separate and thousands of kilometres of fencing were erected, in order to gain access to international markets. The European Union invested considerable sums in creating a zoned arrangement, with ‘disease free’, ‘buffer’ and ‘infected’ areas to allow exports to European markets under special agreements that existed under the Lome agreement. This was a lucrative trade for those beef farmers able to comply. However, it also excluded many beef producers in large parts of the country. In addition, it diverted huge amounts of aid funds, as well as government resources, in the inevitably vain attempt to create FMD disease freedom.

This was an unscientific and expensive policy. But pressure from European nations and others in the OIE prevented any change in international regulatory policy until now, despite excellent arguments from African researchers, including from Zimbabwe, that safe trade alternatives exist. In many ways it was a scandal – a huge waste of time and public money, distorting markets and creating benefits for the few not the many in the name of ‘development’ and ‘aid’.

Now quarantine-based value chain approaches to beef production (also known as commodity-based trade) can become a routine option. AHEAD Guidelines show how this policy change offers the unprecedented possibility of access to new beef markets for southern African livestock producers.

Commodity-based trade for beef will help open up markets within Africa, as well as Asia, and make these markets available for a wider range of producers. – Zimbabweland

Post published in: Agriculture

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