After eighteen years of negotiations, Namibia became the first African country to export beef to the United States, the world’s largest market.
The first shipment of Namibian red meat – 25 metric tons, shipped February 19 to Philadelphia – was a modest 25-ton shipment, but a symbolic victory for the southern African country’s economic diplomacy, which has been patiently negotiating the trade package since 2002.
The agreement, reached under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a US law exempting a range of products from some 40 sub-Saharan African countries from customs duties, should enable Namibia, which is known for its hormone-free, free-range beef, to export 860 tonnes of beef (boneless or cut in chilled or frozen form) to the United States this year. Present in Windhoek, at the headquarters of the state-owned Meatco Corporation, the Namibian meat exporter who inaugurated this first shipment to the United States, is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, welcomed the fact that his country is « …finally in a position to export meat to the large and lucrative US market », the world’s largest economic power being by far the world’s largest consumer of beef, ahead of China and Brazil (see graph below). In fact, the Namibian politician said that the main target would be the very powerful American fast-food industry (4 million direct jobs and 256 billion turnover in 2018), with its gargantuan needs. This economic opportunity was also mentioned by the American ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, the diplomat welcoming in particular « access to the largest consumer market, with a cumulative purchasing power of 13 000 billion dollars, while American consumers will be offered high quality beef from Namibia ».
In the short term, however, beef shipments to the United States are not expected to significantly affect Namibia’s foreign sales volumes, as the country exports about 30,000 tonnes of beef annually, 60 per cent of which is destined for neighbouring South Africa.