Agri SA and the National Wool Growers’ Association of SA (NWGA) call for government action needed to stop what they called the unwarranted, job-killing China export ban on South African wool.
China is South Africa’s primary wool export market, accounting for about 70 percent of exports, in value terms.
In a joint statement issued by the two agricultural organisations, they said they were extremely concerned about the unjustifiable ban on wool exports to China due to recent Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks in parts of the country.
The first wool auction for the 2022/23 season was scheduled for August 17and, with 70-80 percent of the South African clip traditionally destined for China, the ban would have a devastating effect on the local wool industry.
The value of the South Africa wool clip was around R5 billion per annum. Since the ban was announced in April, the South African wool industry has thus far lost an estimated R734 million in wool exports to China. The ban also threatens the livelihoods of the industry’s 35 000 workers as well as 4 500 seasonal sheep shearers and wool handlers.
The agricutlure bodies said the ban was unwarranted since South Africa had protocols in place that regulated the storage of wool after shearing for a specified time at required minimum temperatures as stipulated by the terrestrial code of the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH).
These measures were negotiated with Chinese Authorities during the 2019 outbreak to limit the disruption to trade in circumstances such as the current one.
All export facilities in South Africa had been registered with the Chinese authorities to ensure proper monitoring and accurate certification. Furthermore, though wool sheep were, like all cloven-hoofed animals, susceptible to be infected by FMD, no outbreaks had been recorded in recognised wool producing areas nor had any small stock been diagnosed with FMD.
The organisations said the auction date looming for the country’s wool, it was essential that Ministers Thoko Didiza and Ebrahim Patel intervene to secure the industry’s access to the Chinese market. They said the failure to act would have devastating consequences for industry’s workers, and for small scale producers in particular.
Christo van der Rheede, the executive director of Agri SA, and Leon de Beer, the chief executive of NWGA, said they were concerned about the emerging and communal wool producing sector in particular, as most of their clip was destined for export to China.
“More than 40 000 small scale producers market close to six million kg of wool annually valued at an estimated R300 million. These producers and surrounding communities will fall back into poverty should the Chinese market remain closed for wool from South Africa,” they said.
Many commercial wool sheep producers had only recently emerged from an extended period of drought, and if wool exports to China could not resume due to the ban, these farmers might not survive, the y said.
Agri SA and NWGA said they could only trust that the South African authorities would make every effort to address this issue with the Chinese authorities as a matter of urgency. South African wool was safe for export. They added that South Africa must resolve this matter quickly for the sake of the livelihoods on the line.