South Africa is set to impose restrictions on pork imports on the grounds of health interests, in a move that may affect all countries which export pork to the market.
The South African veterinary authorities are in the process of placing restrictions on imports of pork products from countries that are not free from porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), ahead of notifying the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Although the full list of cuts from non PRRS-free countries affected has not yet been completed, it is expected to represents almost, if not all, of the pork exporters to South Africa.
However, David Wolpert, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) told GlobalMeatNews there was no scientific evidence to back the decision to impose the ban: “According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), WTO protocols require such actions to be based upon sound scientific evidence, of which there is, in our view, none,” he said.
In 2005, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published an opinion on PRRS, stating that pig meat from PRRS-infected countries had historically been imported into PRRS-free countries in Europe and New Zealand without any evidence of dissemination of PRRS.
The move is widely believed to be down to political motives. Wolpert said that although AMIES cannot confirm that the local pork industry is behind the move, “they are clearly enthusiastic supporters of such action”.
“The restrictions will only allow such pork meat into the country if the meat is to go into further processing,” he said.
The majority of pork imports to South Africa come from EU countries, with nearly half of all imports in 2011 coming from Germany (49%), followed by Canada (24%), Spain and France, according to records from the South African Pork Producers Organisation (SAPPO).
Imports of pork to South Africa from Canada, the world’s third-largest exporter of pork, have increased steadily over the past 10 years, from 124t in 2001 to 7,821.65t last year, with a peak in 2009 of 13,174.69t. Canada now sells $41m of meat products, primarily pork and chicken, to South Africa.
“Canada has been particularly outspoken on this issue and has complained to the South African Minister of Agriculture, as well as to the Department of Trade and Industry,” said Wolpert.