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Foot-and-mouth disease and market access: Challenges for the beef industry in southern Africa

Ian Scoones, William Wolmer


Focusing on the case of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in southern Africa - and specifically Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe - this paper explores the economic, social and political trade-offs arising from different scenarios for gaining market access and managing and controlling FMD in support of beef production in southern Africa.


A central question is: does the current approach, premised on the ability to separate a disease-free commercial sector from endemic areas through strictly enforced buffer and surveillance zones and movement control, make sense given new contexts and challenges? Are there other alternatives that benefit a wider group of producers, ensure food-safe trade, and are easier to implement, yet maintain access to important export markets and so foreign exchange revenues?


Following an examination of the new contexts of disease dynamics and livestock trade in southern Africa, the paper explores a series of scenarios for market access including: trade with the EU; direct exports to large retailers; export to emerging markets, particularly Asia; regional trade in southern Africa and domestic urban and rural markets.


Given this assessment, the paper then asks: what makes most sense for the control and management of FMD?


In southern Africa arguments for persisting with the status quo have strong and influential supporters. The policy argument for safe trade based on area-based disease freedom and a strict separation of commercial, export-oriented herds from others is rooted in a strong science and policy international network, supported by well-funded and well-connected international institutions and commercial interests and has deep-rooted historical connections, with associated personal and institutional commitments within the region. As such it reflects a particular set of interests and assumptions.


These sway national debates about appropriate measures for disease control sometimes blocking out alternative views and perspectives. But there are alternative views, with different implications for policy directions.


In this paper we explore four scenarios, in addition to the standard approach, including: export zones with vaccination; compartmentalisation; commodity-based trade and managing FMD for domestic trade. Complementarities and trade-offs between different market access and disease control scenarios are explored, highlighting some important win-win opportunities, which have, as yet, not been fully exploited.


The paper concludes that, given the evolving contexts for livestock production, transboundary diseases and trade, a major policy rethink is needed. If the full benefits of the livestock revolution are to be captured in southern Africa, this will require developing new responses and capacities, and abandoning inappropriate and out-dated policy frameworks. The paper argues that a diversity of complementary market access and disease control options will allow resilience to disease events and market shocks to be built and benefits to be more widely shared, as well as a more integrated and coordinated approach at regional level to emerge.


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Article made possible through the contribution of Institute of Development Studies.

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