On 19th February 2020, the first consignment of Namibian beef left the Southern African country destined for the US.
Among the high government officials who witnessed the first of its kind event, was Deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. Ms. Nandi-Ndaitwah was all praises of the feat and said the export of Namibian beef, through the Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco) to the United States is a great achievement in the advancement of Namibia's economic diplomacy.
“In 2002 and again in 2005, the government of Namibia initiated negotiations on the export of meat (beef) products to the United States, with the intention to exporting boneless (not ground) raw beef products such as primal cuts, chuck, blade, and beef trimming. Today, 18-years later, we are able to finally export meat to the lucrative and big US market.” the deputy prime minister said, The Namibian reported.
Ms. Nandi-Ndaitwah added that the occasion signifies how ties between Namibia and the US continue to be strengthened through different bilateral agreements, and through the African Opportunity Growth Act (Agoa), the two economies can now see some of those coming to fruition.
“I think this may be one of the longest protocols ever that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of USA and the Namibian Directorate of Veterinary Service (DVS) had taken to ensure that all technical areas are cleared and are in accordance with various established protocols. It is said, 'nothing good comes easy', today Namibia is proud of this achievement,”
US ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson, who was also present during the occasion noted that Meatco's high-quality beef product has enabled Namibia to become the first country in Africa to be eligible to export beef to the United States.
“One of my top priorities as US ambassador is to increase US-Namibia trade and investment in order to create prosperity for both our countries. And since my arrival in Namibia two years ago, I have had the honour to work closely with Meatco and the ministries represented here today to help make export of Namibian beef to the United States a reality,” she said.
Namibia is one of Africa’s biggest keepers of cattle and when negotiations started, no other African country had ever exported beef to the US despite the fact that it is the world's biggest beef consuming market.
“It was therefore an ambitious undertaking for Namibia, a country with 2,4 million cattle and competing for a share in a market claimed and defended by the developed beef producing countries of the world,” Ms Johnson said.
Getting Namibian beef on American plate was no walk in the park and the country underwent several audits in September 2019, including a public health and assurance audit by the US via Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS). On an annual basis, Namibian Directorate of Veterinary Service (DVS) submitted an online self-audit, which FSIS verified with an on-site audit every two years.
The audit ensured that Namibia complies with all the import requirements of the US beef market and, based on the final audit report, Namibia was granted excess to continue exports to the US.
After the green light, Namibia can also export both chilled and frozen boneless meat to the US among other meat products.
Namibia’s Agriculture minister Alpheus Naruseb added that the trade between Namibia and the US cements the US's objectives to increase trade with Africa, improve economic relations and enhance market access under Agoa.
“The significance of exporting Namibian beef is more than just adding yet another high-quality ingredient to the American people's plate; it marks the success of two countries in the realisation of win-win cooperation. Namibia as a developing country continuously and rigorously striving to expand its international markets for meat and meat products while creating more job opportunities for its people,” he said.