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SA’s application to export pork to China denied

An outbreak of African Swine Fever in Germany is causing headaches for Mzansi’s pork industry

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South Africa’s application to export pork to China has been turned down by the Chinese government. While the industry is hopeful of a better outcome when it re-applies in the months ahead, experts reckon it will take some effort to convince Chinese importers.

According to the head of consumer assurance at the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (Sappo), Dr Peter Evans, China’s refusal of imports from South Africa appears to be in line with the country’s recent decision to ban all imports from countries infected with African Swine Fever (ASF).

Dr Peter Evans from South African Pork Producers' Organisation. Photo: SAPPO.
Dr Peter Evans from South African Pork Producers’ Organisation. Photo: Sappo

Following the detection of ASF in wild boar populations in Germany in September, key importing countries banned German pork that same month.

“China seems to be consistent in its approach. China recently banned imports from Germany. Our only hope of exporting to China is to convince them to accept the safeguards provided by our pig compartments,” Dr Evans says.

Key importing countries like Japan and South Korea also barred German pork imports. Germany accounts for 61% of South Africa’s pork rib imports.

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China is reported to have the largest number of pigs in the world and accounts for more than half of the global pig population. Around 56% of China’s entire meat industry output is pork.

SA can guarantee ASF-free pigs and pig products

According to an update report compiled by Dr Mpho Maja, director of animal health at the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development (DALRRD) in October, SA has a system of approving pig compartments that are free of specific diseases, including ASF.

Dr Mpho Maja, director of animal health at DALRRD. Photo: SAHP.
Dr Mpho Maja, director of animal health at the DALRRD. Photo: SAHP

“No outbreaks of ASF have ever occurred in SA’s officially approved pig compartments, which have specific biosecurity measures in place to prevent the entry of ASF.

“SA can therefore provide the necessary guarantees to certify freedom of ASF, FMD (foot-and-mouth disease), CSF (classical swine fever) and PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) for pigs and pig products from these compartments,” Maja states.

Despite trade restrictions, SA is not ready to put a lid on its plans to invade the Chinese pork market.

“We have initiated a re-application process to be allowed to export to Singapore and Sappo has contracted a veterinarian to complete the required documentation,” Dr Evans says.

40% jump in the pork rib price expected

Meanwhile, the result of China blocking imports from Germany is having an undesirable knock-on effect back home. Experts warn that this could lead to a climb in pork rib prices locally. A price jump of as much as 40% is predicted in the weeks ahead.

Jacques Talpert, commercial director at BRM Brands. Photo: LinkedIn.
Jacques Talpert, commercial director at BRM Brands. Photo: LinkedIn

Furthermore, local pork suppliers have had to look elsewhere to import. This, after the DALRRD laid out its own restrictions on raw pork imports from Germany in September.

France, the UK and Ireland have been SA’s primary source for pork cuts. However, importers complain that steep pricing has placed further strain on them.

According to Jacques Talpert, commercial director at BRM Brands, their import costs have risen by 40% and the price increase will filter through to consumers soon.

“We’ve decided that we’re going to take some pain ourselves, but we can’t absorb it all as the margins are small in this industry and we’d be out of business,” he told Business Insider.

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Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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