Namibia become the first African nation qualified to export beef to US Market

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Namibia yesterday became the first African country whose much sought-after beef qualified for the lucrative export markets of the United States of America and exports to the USA could start as soon as September, it transpired yesterday.

The approval for Namibian beef to enter the US market came mere hours after a Meatco announcement that it is in the process of finalising the trade licence with the regulatory body in China before exports to that Asian country can commence.

The US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service yesterday confirmed the eligibility of Namibia to export meat products to the US, according to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Windhoek. It said: “On July 13, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) added Namibia to the list of countries eligible to export beef to the United States.”

Namibia intends to export some 860 000 kg of beef in the first year, rising to 5.7 million kg by the fifth year. The projected Namibian beef imports in the first year would only be about 0.008 percent of total US production and 0.07 percent of total US meat imports. To date, only 33 countries worldwide have been approved to export meat to the US.

The breakthrough for Namibian beef to the US comes after the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) initially opposed Namibian beef on the grounds of the potential risk of foot and mouth disease (FMD) spreading to that country’s livestock market as a result of Namibia’s proximity to FMD-affected countries Angola, Zambia and Botswana.

Only South Africa and southern Botswana have been classified as FMD-free without vaccination. Yesterday, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said it is amending the federal meat inspection regulations to add Namibia to the list of countries eligible to export meat and meat products to the US. The new trade arrangement will thus only come into effect after the rule change is finalised in September.

“FSIS has reviewed Namibia’s laws, regulations, and inspection system as implemented, and has determined that they are equivalent to the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), the regulations implementing this statute, and the United States food safety system for meat and meat products.

“Under this final rule, Namibia will only be able to export to the United States boneless (not ground) raw beef products, such as primal cuts, chuck, blade, and beef trimmings, processed in certified Namibian establishments, because FSIS only assessed Namibia’s meat inspection system with respect to these products, a statement by the US Office of Policy and Programme Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, confirmed.

Evaluation of the Namibian meat inspection system started in 2002 and resumed in 2005 after which the government of Namibia requested approval to export beef products to the US. Namibia stated that, if approved, its immediate intent was to export boneless (not ground) raw beef products, such as primal cuts, chuck, blade, and beef trimmings to the US market.

In 2006, FSIS conducted a document review to evaluate the laws, regulations, and other documentation used by Namibia to execute its meat inspection programme and an on-site audit of Namibia’s meat inspection system and identified systemic deficiencies. In response to this audit, Namibia submitted a corrective action plan that addressed FSIS’s findings.

In 2009, FSIS conducted a follow-up on-site audit to verify that all outstanding issues identified during the previous audit have been addressed. Following that on-site audit, Namibia again provided a corrective action plan to address the issues identified.

In 2013, FSIS proceeded with a follow-up on-site audit of Namibia’s meat inspection system and verified that Namibia had satisfactorily implemented corrective actions in response to the 2009 on-site audit. Following a series of further audits to ensure Namibia complies with US regulatory standards, FSIS determined on the basis of the 2014 on-site audit that Namibia fully met the criteria.

In its statement, the US Embassy in Windhoek said: “Namibia may also receive approval to export other meat products in the future by showing that those products meet other applicable US requirements for those products.”

Source: New Era