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Why it is crucial that the FMD-free status is restored

China recently announced that it would resume the imports of hides, livestock skins and wool from SA, following a suspension on these and all beef products exported to the Asian country from SA because of an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth-Disease earlier this year. The Asian nation currently imports red meat from Brazil, New Zealand, Paraguay, Uruguay, Australia and amongst others. South Africa was the first country in Africa to export its beef products to China. It has not yet resumed the import of beef products from SA.
Why it is crucial that the FMD-free status is restored
©Chutima Chaochaiya via 123RF

"This is a step in the right direction, but we need to regain our FMD-free status to avoid further delays, which could have negative consequences on our economy and the beef industry if not restored soon," says Blignaut, adding that beef exports to China is vital to the South African economy," says Gert Blignaut, Beefmaster Group COO.

Experts are anticipating that the demand for beef will increase in China, due to the impact of African swine fever on the pork industry in China.

"It would be positive for the South African economy to yet again get a slice of the pie when it comes to the export of beef products."

Blignaut, who is on the committee to re-establish trade with foreign markets, in conjunction with local and international industry representatives, adds that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) must be congratulated for taking swift action and coordinating the industry response following the outbreak of FMD.

"We need to ensure that the SA beef industry remains profitable," says Blignaut, who returned from Shanghai this week after representing Beefmaster Group at SIAL China 2019.

"The Chinese response to our exhibit was extremely favourable and welcoming, despite the market being closed to SA since the outbreak of FMD. This is because of the positive relationship built with them since trade was established in 2017, as well as the quality of South African beef that China has become accustomed to in the last two years.

"The Chinese food import market is highly competitive, and there is an increasing demand in China for high-quality beef products due to a growing middle class," he says, adding that the total South African beef exports increased by 50% since trade to China opened in 2017, making it a very valuable trade market to the country.

Research suggests that the Chinese meat industry is booming, with more than one million metric tons of meat imported to the country in 2018, making it the world’s largest market for beef products. According to reports, China's 2019 beef imports are predicted to be double 2016 volumes.

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