File picture: Natalie Behring

Cape Town - Growth in South Africa’s ostrich industry is set to increase following the European Commission’s announcement last week that it was lifting a four-year ban on the country’s export of fresh ostrich meat into the EU.

Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said the lifting of the ban was “excellent news for the industry”, which contributes over R1 billion to the economy, setting it up for further growth”.

“The industry was initially severely economically impacted by the 2011 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak, but has since recovered somewhat through the export of processed ostrich meat.

“Processed meat will continue to be exported, parallel to the export of fresh ostrich meat. This will lessen the impact of any future incursions of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) in the industry.”

Winde said resuming exports to the EU would play an important role in increasing the number of jobs in the industry, which currently employs over 50 000 people.

He added that veterinarians in the Western Cape conducted regular testing which ensured animal diseases were detected early.

“Strict control measures are put in place to ensure cases that arise are managed effectively.”

Francois de Wet, chairman of the South African Ostrich Business Chamber and chief executive of Mossel Bay-based ostrich meat distributor, Mosstrich, said the industry was optimistic about the announcement and believed it would help the sector to recover from the export ban.

“The industry recovered fairly well during the last two years, specifically because the value of ostrich leather increased significantly and the industry developed methods to pre-heat ostrich meat and export the product to the European Union.”

De Wet said the local consumption of ostrich meat also increased dramatically over the past years and these factors contributed to the recovery of the industry.

“We do not foresee a big growth in production volumes during the next two years because an over-production will result in lower farmer revenue and then the whole industry may be in dire straits again.

“The opening of the EU market for fresh exports will, however, ensure more money in the value chain and that will help recover some of the jobs lost when the ban started.

“The industry will continue to supply the local market as well as the pre-heated export market, while extra revenue will be earned with the fresh exports. We look forward to develop the EU market again with this typical South African delicacy.”

Charl du Plessis, managing director at Klein Karoo International, said the extra income from fresh meat exports will provide a welcome respite for the industry at a time when ostrich leather was trading in a difficult commercial environment.

CAPE ARGUS