African farmers missing out on global boom

by Editor
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

African farmers are missing out on a global boom in demand for meat products because of out-of-date international regulations.

New research suggests practical options to unlock the potential of the southern African livestock industry and help millions lift themselves out of poverty through trade. These new "win-win" options for livestock standards and market access would allow farmers to export safe, high quality products to lucrative international markets without increasing the risk of spreading animal disease, such as foot and mouth disease.

The African Union is among the top level bodies preparing to make crucial decisions about the livestock sector. But practical options that respond to dynamic change in the global meat industry, market access requirements and disease control have been lacking, until now.

Over the past 18 months, studies in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe have investigated the economic, social and political trade-offs of different scenarios for gaining market access and controlling livestock disease. The research recommends a range of options that can be mixed and matched to support the beef industry, instead of a one-size-fits-all solution for every country.

Options for market access include: trade with the European Union; direct exports to large retailers; export to emerging markets, particularly Asia; regional trade in southern Africa and domestic urban and rural markets.

They can be combined with practical disease control options and a more integrated and coordinated approach at regional level. For example, current European-led 'zero-tolerance' standards insist on disease-free regions, but are too costly and impractical for poor farmers to put in place. Instead, the new research advocates options based on the saf ety, quality and processing of meat products.

Deboned beef can be traded safely if processing methods are effectively regulated instead of the country's disease status. Demand for meat products is soaring, particularly in China where annual consumption of meat has risen from an average of 20 kg/person to 50 kg/person since 1985. African countries contribute just 2% of global trade in livestock products.

This research is the culmination of an 18 month study supported by the Livestock for Life programme of the Wellcome Trust and coordinated by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK.