SA in dispute with neighbours over “unfair” trade bans

A resolution is still being sought to a dispute between South Africa and two of its neighbours which have banned vegetable imports.

South African vegetable producers are urging the government to act against “unfair” bans on their products imposed by neighbours Botswana and Namibia.

The bans included South African exports of tomatoes, potatoes, beetroot, cabbages, peppers and other fresh produce.

Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA, told Farmer’s Weekly that the bans were imposed purely to protect local production in the two countries, and were therefore in contravention of the Southern African Customs Union agreement.

Farmers had complained to the departments of trade and industry, and agriculture, but no action had been taken, according to Clive Garret, marketing manager at the ZZ2 farming group.

“Failure to protect our markets will not only affect foreign income and farmer revenues, but also job security In South Africa,” Garret said.

Namibia and Botswana had a competitive advantage because of far lower labour costs than South Africa, and imposed the bans while exporting their own products to South Africa at the expense of South African producers.  About 13% of the tomatoes sold in South Africa came from Namibia.

Willie Jacobs, CEO of Potatoes South Africa, said Namibian stipulations were adjusted almost every week, and communicated via the country’s website. This made it difficult for South African potato farmers to plan, frustrating the potential for increased potato production. Jacobs called for discussions to resolve the issue.