Nam hopeful of US beef export deal
Windhoek- Namibia is on the cusp of clinching a major beef and grape export deal with the USA, a move which could signal a tectonic shift in the country’s marketing of its agricultural products, a senior government official said. A Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) official told The Southern Times that Namibia was on the verge of sealing a beef export deal with the US market. Freddie !Gaoseb, a senior MTI official who has been attached to the US as a commercial counsellor said that Namibia and US officials are finalising exporting modalities before the sealing the deal. !Gaoseb said that US inspectors were impressed with Namibia’s beef industry following a tour of the country and abattoirs last September. He said that in six months time Namibia’s beef and grape sectors might make the much anticipated breakthrough into the US market. Intensified efforts to diversify the export markets of beef and grapes comes as Namibia and the European Union (EU) continue to haggle on a new trade deal under the economic partnership agreements (EPA). Namibia and South Africa have refused to sign an interim EPA with the EU arguing that the proposed EPA is a recycling of the old trade regime, which favours the EU. Namibia currently does not have a formal trade agreement with the European bloc. Outstanding issues in the negotiations towards a full EPA remain on trade in services, investment provisions, government procurement as well as provisions made for most favoured nations (MFNs). The local agriculture sector has raised fears that the lack of a formal trade agreement with the EU might result in the country losing its trade preferences. The MFN treatment is about extending to the EU all the benefits of any future trade agreements that Namibia may enter into with other countries. Namibia has also refused to budge on EU demands on the abolition of restrictions on local content in manufactured and processed goods, and free movement of EU goods with in the SADC EPA markets. Namibia and South Africa have argued that the movement of goods ‘might not be compatible with SACU or would have implications for the modalities for a future customs for all SADC member states.’ Clinching a new beef export market would come as a relief to Namibia’s beef industry. But! Gaoseb maintained that diversifying the beef export market has nothing to do with the EU standoff over EPAs. “We have long been looking to diversify the export market and we have been engaging the US on a number of occasions,” he said. !Gaoseb said that the US market has nearly the same export health standard requirements as the EU particularly regarding beef exports. To Namibia’s advantage, unlike the EU, the US market does not make de-boning a special requirement. “They don’t have a particular requirement for de-boning and this means that you can sell the whole carcass and this raises the value of the product,” !Gaoseb said. Namibia exports around 9 600 tonnes of deboned prime beef cuts to the EU, 600 tonnes of mutton. The country also exports about 18 000 tonnes of its annual production of 22 500 tonnes of table grapes and about 500 000 tonnes of fish annually. “So far everything is positive and hopefully in six months time, the frameworks would have been finalised and it will be up to the private sector to take up the challenge of the new market,” !Gaoseb said.