THE European Commission has lifted the suspension of exports of registered horses from South Africa. The Commission’s decision was published in the official Journal of the European Union on Thursday 26 October 2006.
Racing South Africa CEO Peter Gibson said: “This is of great importance to South Africa’s equine industry as it re-establishes a direct trade link with the global bloodstock markets.”
Peter Gibson, Racing SA.
Since the EU imposed the suspension in early 2004 as a result of an outbreak of African Horse Sickness (AHS) in Stellenbosch, South African horses of all breeds have been exported via Mauritius and the USA, both of which require complicated and expensive quarantines.
In April of this year, after the mandatory two year suspension had been served, the European Commission’s Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC) voted to lift the suspension of exports of registered horses from South Africa. However, the Commission was forced to delay the implementation of that decision following the outbreak of AHS in the Robertson district of the BAR Valley in the Western Cape. Although Robertson is more than 100km from the AHS-free zone and is separated by a significant geographical barrier (the Hottentots Holland mountain range), it forms part of the AHS controlled area.
The Western Cape Veterinary Services officially lifted the Robertson quarantine on 14 July and the final report was submitted to the European Commission in September.
The EU suspension has been lifted only three months after the clinical end point of the Robertson outbreak, which is a major breakthrough for South Africa. This came as a result of the transparency that exists between the South African Veterinary Services and its trading partners and the constructive negotiations that have taken place with the EU.
Racing South Africa is presently conducting a survey to determine the number of horses ready for export. Only once this detail is known can a detailed shipping programme be developed and promoted. It should be noted that Racing South Africa will no longer operate quarantines during the AHS high risk season. Additionally, because shipments from Cape Town are reliant on charter aircraft, their economic viability is determined by filling the available quarantine space.
The Import-Export Working Group is a partnership between the Department of Agriculture (National and Western Cape Province) and the South African equine industry. The lifting of the suspension is the first phase of its strategy towards paving the way for fundamental changes to the way in which South Africa is able to negotiate future export protocols with importing countries.
This includes proposing changes to the conditions of the current protocol and contributing to the revising of the OIE’s (World Animal Health Organisation) AHS Code Chapter. Both projects have made significant progress.