US meat producers are growing impatient over continued delays on market access to South Africa for meat products.
Following an agreement made in Paris in June, South Africa was supposed to re-open market access for quotas of certain US meat products, after years of imposing anti-dumping tariffs.
However, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) have met three times since then and have been unable to finalise remaining issues with the trade measures, according to the latest report from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
South Africa claims to be maintaining bans on some meats as a sanitary measure to protect the country from disease.
If the two countries fail to reach a compromise, South Africa risks losing its benefits under the US’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade preference agreement that was renewed after the Paris talks earlier this year.
Avian flu still an issue for poultry imports
South Africa completely banned poultry imports from the US late in 2014 after the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
So far, South Africa has rejected requests from the US to regionalise the ban so that poultry products from areas not affected by avian influenza could enter the country. The blanket ban is inconsistent with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards.
South Africa has not as yet taken any steps to implement the quotas of anti-dumping tariff-free poultry imports agreed in Paris either. The South African Poultry Association is a key barrier to implementing the measures, as government seems to be leaving access deals to industry, but the US industry associations have put forward what it believes can be a successful agreement for consideration.
Negotiations continue on these issues, and also on the format of poultry health certificates for exported birds.
Beef access denied since 2003 BSE outbreak
South Africa has maintained a ban on the import of all US ruminant products, including pet food, following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) positive animal in Washington State in 2003.
Some progress was made on this issue in June 2015, when the South African Cabinet reportedly issued a decree to recognise the United States’ negligible risk status for beef.
South Africa Minister of Agriculture Senzeni Zokwana wrote to USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on 4 August, providing details of the negligible risk status recognition.
That letter made many requests for audits, and laid out a very stringent set of conditions for US access. Now the health certificate must be negotiated.
Given poultry and pork certificates have been passed back and forth between the two governments over a period of years, it’s too soon to forecast when a finalised beef certificate may happen. Unless DAFF prioritises these discussions, it may take years.
Pork banned over PRRS concerns
In May 2012, South Africa notified the World Trade Organization of a new restriction regarding porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) and began enforcing the measure in June 2013, which stopped US pork exports to South Africa.
South Africa also imposes additional requirements on pork due to concerns for pseudorabies and trichinae.
Although the USDA believes these barriers are unwarranted, the US is trying to find ways to compromise and meet some of South Africa’s mitigation protocol.
Despite these concessions, South Africa approved only a limited list of US pork cuts for export to South Africa, which excludes shoulder cuts, a priority for US industry.
The report says that South Africa needs to put more eligible cuts on the table.