It has been five months since the two nations ended their meat row and the trade of beef, pork and poultry has picked up pace, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Imports of US poultry, beef and pork were banned by South Africa since 2000, 2003 and 2013 respectively. But after a two-year trade negotiation culminated in an agreement to relax sanitary barriers, US meat exports are flooding into an African market worth around $75m.
“The arrival of US beef in South Africa represents another important milestone in efforts by the USDA and the office of the US Trade Representative to regain access to this important market,” said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement on Monday 16 May.
“Along with US poultry, South African consumers now have access to high-quality, safe and wholesome US beef and US producers and exporters have gained another valuable market for their products.”
On 7 January 2016, representatives from the US and South Africa finalised an agreement that would see the African state lower testing standards and streamline US efforts to secure health certificates for beef, pork and poultry.
This came after US president Barack Obama set the end of 2015 as a deadline for both parties to reach an agreement to solve the fractious relationship over meat trade. If an agreement could not be found, Obama threatened to suspend South Africa from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – a bill designed to bolster trade with the US and sub-Saharan Africa.
South Africa’s Poultry Association (SAPA) was duly accused of “stubborn protectionism” over the country’s chicken market by the Association of Meat Imports and Exporters of SA. But after what the US described as “intense discussions”, an agreement on meat trade was reached.
Under the terms of the new deal, South Africa has already begun to receive poultry from the US, with imports reaching close to 12,000 metric tonnes, worth $7.2m, in the first quarter of 2016.
Separately, the USDA said the Obama administration had “worked aggressively” to expand market access for US goods, including meat and another agricultural products. In six of the past seven years that Obama has been in office, agriculture exports have been some of the best in US history, according to the USDA.
BSE health barriers
In 2015, the USDA was involved in a mission to eliminate trade barriers it faced in relation to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) fears that date back to 2003. Fourteen countries have now removed outdated BSE safety measures and given US beef more market access, which could increase the value of US beef exports by $180m. The countries are: Australia, Macau, Philippines, New Zealand, Singapore, Ukraine, Vietnam, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Costa Rica, Guatemala, St Lucia and Iraq.