- Namibia and Botswana have a considerable beef export to northern European countries such as Norway, but are met with "discriminating" hindrances, a new report shows. Also Nordic farmer organisations want to limit beef imports from Southern Africa, saying "it is unethical" to import food from such a poor region.
According to a study published by NorWatch, a group monitoring Norwegian businesses in low cost countries, African meat is being discriminated on the Norwegian market. Meat produced in Namibia and Botswana represents around 0.8 percent of total consume in Norway - totalling 3000 tonnes annually.
But imports from the Southern African countries could easily have been doubled if it was not for "unexplainable export hindrances." Namibian and Batswana beef and lamb has a far more difficult way into the Norwegian market than products from rich European countries, even if its quality is renowned for being better.
In the Farmers Meat Market - a company based in Mariental in southern Namibia and partially owned by Norway's BM-Food - lamb meat is packed for export. But one only sees boned lamb legs, briskets and fillets - no lamb chops or pieces with bones. "If we could have exported meat with bones, we could have more than doubled sales to Norway," the chief butcher told NorWatch.
Norway does not allow the smallest piece of bone to cross the border in meat from Africa, the reason being fear over mad cow's and foot-and-mouth disease. This, the Farmers Meat Market holds, is unfair, given that there has been now outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Namibia since 1964, and mad cows have never been registered. Norway however imports meat with bones from Sweden, Denmark and the UK, countries that recently have had outbreaks of both animal diseases.
Also quality testing procedures are discriminating. Any container with African meat reaching Oslo's harbour will be checked thoroughly, at the importer's expenses. While tests are made, the container is quarantined at the harbour on a rented place. If only one piece of meat is found to be suspicious, the whole container is sent back to Southern Africa - also at the importer's expenses.
According to NorWatch, about 2 percent of imported meat from Africa is sent back from Norway. The meat usually ends up thrown away. Products from the European Union (EU) and Norway's own farmers are quality checked on a far less thorough manner, according to NorWatch's investigations. Also in the other European countries, quality checks on African meat are especially tough.
Norwegian experts however admit that quality and hygiene standards are indeed better on meat from Botswana and Namibia than from most European countries. "In many ways, they are far ahead of Europe regarding hygiene, because they are so dependent on their exports," Norwegian chief butcher Albert Idsøe, who has worked in Namibia, told NorWatch.
Also Namibian Agriculture Minister Paul Smit thinks Southern African meat meets too many hindrances on its way to European markets. "I understand the needs of these countries to assure that the food is safe, so we have to comply with the demands they set," Minister Smit told David Stenerud of NorWatch. However, he adds, "I was in the EU last year and then I asked to inspect their meat production. That was not well received," he says, smiling.
While meat production prices are comparatively low in Botswana and Namibia, the many hindrances and the physical distance to the market are causing great risks to importers. Minister Smits complains that Namibia gets "more criterions to comply with" than other exporters, thus also hiking production prices in the country.
The current discriminatory market access leads to very limited meat imports in Europe from big producers such as Botswana and Namibia. The Norwegian Farmers and Smallholders Union (NBS), however, still feels threatened by this import and wants to scrap it altogether. NBS leader Solveig Kristin Horve claims this is out of concern for food security in Africa.
- Why should we, who have our own soil to produce food, occupy the soil of those needing it, Ms Horve asks, claiming the beef import from Namibia and Botswana is unethical. "The most solidary would be that they eat the food they produce themselves," she explains.
Ms Horve's arguments are however met with little understanding among Norwegian researchers and government officials. Sources in the Oslo Foreign Ministry told afrol News that the government and the development agency (NORAD) has provided assistance to importers and producers in Namibia and Botswana to enable them to meet with quality and hygiene demands. NORAD sees meet imports from Botswana and Namibia as examples of successful development projects.
Professor Ragnar Øygard at the Norwegian agricultural university also is shocked by the statements of Ms Horve. Most of Africa has the best natural conditions for large-scale food production, he holds, saying that it is "the lack of access to markets with a purchasing power" that mainly limits food production.
Dry countries like Namibia and Botswana are well fit to produce meat, which they need to export to be able to buy the grains they cannot produce, Mr Øygard told NorWatch. He criticises the "defence walls erected by Western farmers" as being the real reason behind low food production and food insecurity in Africa.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.