Meatco urges caution on red line removal

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Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - The Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) has appealed to all stakeholders to proceed with caution if the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF), well known as the red line, is to be removed. 

The Southern Times is reliably informed that discussions at cabinet level are underway to start the process of removing the red line. 

The red line is a disease-exclusion fence separating northern Namibia from the central and southern parts of the country. It encases several northern regions such as Oshana, Kavango East and West, Omusati, Zambezi, Omaheke, and Kunene Region.

Livestock from the northern regions is not allowed to cross the red line inland due to fear of spreading disease. As a result, farmers in the north continue to be denied opportunities to sell their livestock internationally. The southern side of the line is profuse with commercial farms mostly owned by white people, who continue to profit from opportunities that enable them to sell their livestock any time, mostly in international markets.

The red line dates to the colonial period. Despite repeated calls since independence in 1990 to have it removed, the line, nothing has materialised. 

Last month, Namibia’s President, Dr Hage Geingob, on his return from the African Union summit also called for the line to be removed so that the northern farmers can also benefit from the free trade markets.

Namibia exports beef to countries such as China, Norway and the European Union.

“Really, after 28 years we cannot still have a country that is divided. Those exporting to the outside world are getting money, those that are not exporting outside are getting less. Our beef is demanded, but we don’t have enough that’s why we have to open up the red line so that we can have more meat to meet the outside demand,” said Geingob.

Namibia’s beef is among the most sought-after in the world. The Office of the Prime Minister has confirmed that discussions are underway and that one possible solution is to move the red line to the borders of Namibia and Angola.

However, for the red line to be moved to the two country’s border, it would mean spending millions of dollars to strengthen the border fence, which has not be repaired for decades. Strengthening the border fence also means that farmers in the northern part of Namibia would no longer move their animals for grazing on the southern side of Angola.

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila confirmed that this item is on the agenda of the land conference and that she hopes that the government will come out of the conference with a consensus on how to expedite this matter.

“Discussions are ongoing between Namibia and Angola to erect a fence near the Angolan border. The idea is to eliminate the red line although it might not be physically, the concept of restricting the movement of animals and meat products across the country is something that we want to work towards,” she said.

Meatco’s Corporate Communication Officer, Jethro Kwenani, this week said if the VFC is removed without putting proper animal diseases control measures, the animal disease status of the different zones in the country will change. This, he said, implies losing the lucrative international markets for beef and only time will tell on the rest of the other implications.

Kwenani has also denied rumours that Meatco has been blocking the removal of the red line for fear that it would dwindle the company’s profits.

He said these are unfounded allegations, as Meatco does not have the power to do so. He added that the line is a responsibility of the government through the Directorate of Veterinary Services.

“We cannot, however, deny that the farmers who are on the other side of the VCF feel they do not benefit from lucrative marketing opportunities. It’s important for various stakeholders, including government, to really work out modalities for farmers on the other side of the VCF to have marketing opportunities just as their counterparts on the other side. This is achievable and these modalities are clearly articulated in the World Organisation for Animal Health,” he said.

 

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