Cattle farmers in Botswana, one of Africa’s top beef exporters to the European Union, have welcomed renewed beef exports to Europe. The move follows a two-month ban that followed an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease and the culling of thousands of cows.
Botswana officials on Monday said the August outbreak near the border with Zimbabwe has been brought under control, although a ban on cattle from the area remains in place.
Due to tough restrictions, beef exports to the European Union had been suspended because of the outbreak in August.
But farmers like Bathusi Letlhare said they are now relieved following Monday’s announcement of the partial lifting of the ban.
“It is a welcome development because the EU is one of the main markets for our beef,” Letlhare said. “They pay good prices, and this, in turn, benefits farmers a lot. It is always bad when we have an FMD outbreak and the market has to be closed.”
Letlhare added that the frequent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease have had an adverse impact on the economy.
“I can say 80 percent of households have livestock, and when FMD breaks out and certain markets are closed, it becomes a big challenge to farmers,” Letlhare said. “Farmers cannot move cattle to markets, and there is no income to farmers, and the whole economy is affected.”
Letlhare felt the impact, too.
“I run a butchery, and for 10 days we were not selling beef,” Letlhare said. “And you can imagine the money we lost.”
Botswana’s acting director of veterinary services Kefentse Motshegwa said strict export requirements will be followed. This includes placing cattle in holdings approved for EU export for a period of 40 days before slaughter.
Beef exports will only be allowed from seven of the country’s 19 agricultural zones.
Andrew Seeletso of the Botswana National Beef Producers Union said although meat from other agricultural zones remained banned, the partial resumption of beef exports is welcome.
“It is better than nothing,” he said. “We are hoping that soon enough, the rest of the country will be allowed to sell beef for the EU market. But overall, we are very excited. It’s a good development, and we support it.”
In September, Botswana partially resumed the beef trade, including live cattle sales to neighboring countries, but there was no export to the EU.
The country enjoys duty- and quota-free access to the European market.