Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Local produce will meet the demand, despite the FMD outbreak –Kwenani

With the recent suspension of the importing of meat products from South Africa, due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco)’s Communication officer Jethro Kwenani said that he’s confident the local meat producers will meet the country’s demand, calming fears of meat product shortages.
On the 7th of January 2019, it was reported that the Foot and Mouth disease which broke out in Vhembe district of Limpopo, has unfortunately spread to the Mpumalanga province as well as to KwaZulu Natal.
The recent outbreak of the disease has inevitably raised concerns in Namibia on the effects it would have on the local meat industry.
“I’m quite confident that local meat producers around the country will meet people’s demand and this can also be an opportunity for them to realise profits locally amongst farmers because local meat will be sold around and in demand,” said Kwenani.
Although FMD is not harmful to humans, it cause mouth ulcers, foot lesions in hoofed animals such as cattle, goats, and camels, making them lame.
The disease can spread very fast because it’s highly contagious, and the only way to prevent the spread is to restrict the movement of animals from a region where infections have been reported.
In 2015, there was an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in the north of Namibia. It was the worst case in 40 years. The outbreak spread to over three regions in less than five months. A total of 14 regions in the Northern Communal Areas reported FMD cases from January to June 2015. It eventually cost N$180 million to control.
The country was finally declared free of the disease in January 2016. “A major factor in Namibia’s success was that it had a fully functional traceability system, known as the Namibian Livestock Identification and Traceability System in place. This system was able to identify the affected areas using Google Maps which enabled officials to identify the focal point of the disease; in other words, where it was first identified.
This area was then quarantined. The next step was to quarantine the animals’ shared food and water resources.
2019 is expected to be yet another difficult year for the Namibian agricultural sector.
“This is due to two major facets, namely, the recent South African border closure necessitated by the Foot and Mouth-disease outbreak in that country and the looming drought.  The agricultural industry should come out unscathed from the FMD outbreak because +/- 70% meat products consumed in Namibia comes from the local market, the effect will probably only be felt depending on the time it takes to contain the outbreak.
The retail sector, depending on their strategies going forward may be affected due to their direct imports from South Africa, which may leave shelves empty,” said Kwenani.
“We actually did not expect it at this time of the year, it just hit us out of the blue. It’s not like we knew what was coming our way else we would have alerted our people if really we knew what was going to come,” he added.
This has raised concerns amongst farmers and consumers on the implications it has on the meat industry and prices.
Speaking to The Patriot on Tuesday, Kwenani stressed that the effect on the meat industry could be serious given the fact that most of Namibia’s meat products are imported from the neighbouring country.
“We are concerned because they are a lot of industry stakeholders that are relevant in the discussion of this topic such as the Meat Board of Namibia which facilitates the export of livestock, meat and processed meat products to importing countries.”
Despite these threats, Namibia in the past has successfully managed to contain FMD and its one of the countries in SADC that have a well-established traceable system to detect the disease.
Namibia was actually able to contain the spread fairly well and to ensure the outbreak was eradicated within a year of the first case being reported. FMD outbreaks typically last much longer.
Kwenani said with the experience, and an effective system they have set up, they are taking necessary steps to ensure that they nip such outbreaks in the bud, in the near future.
“The full extent of South Africa’s outbreak still needs to be determined.
As Namibia’s fairly recent experience shows, a national traceability system would make a big difference in allowing the country to track and manage the disease. This could save animals’ lives and help get this crucial part of the agricultural economy moving again,” he said.

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