The European Union, the largest consumer of South African ostrich meat, has lifted the ban on ostrich imports.
The decision, published last week, lifts the ban imposed last year. The ban was implemented because the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' residue testing procedures did not meet the EU’s requirements.
Minister of Economic Opportunities,Beverley Schäfer, welcomed the news saying: “The EU is the largest market for Western Cape produced ostrich meat and the ban, coupled with extreme drought in the Southern Cape and Karoo regions, has severely impacted the ostrich industry. The resumption of meat trade will help to ease the pressure that ostrich farmers in the province have been experiencing in recent years.”
South Africa currently holds around 75% of the global ostrich market share, with 80% of the country’s ostrich meat coming from the Western Cape. Ostrich exports are divided into meat, leather and feathers, with meat and leather being the most lucrative of the markets.
The news of the lifting of the ban comes on the back of a highly successful ostrich auction held last month, signalling a return of confidence in the industry.
A total of 166 selected ostrich breeder birds were sold at the 15th annual auction held by the Department of Agriculture at its Oudtshoorn research farm.
The average price paid per bird was R5500, significantly higher than the average price of R4100 fetched in the previous year.
The ostriches sold are part of the resource flock at the research farm. The Department sells birds from this flock each year to enable industry to benefit directly from the genetic improvements made through the farm’s selection programme.
“This year’s auction proves that ostrich producers are willing to invest in breeding material and signals well for the long term future of the industry as this will enable the industry to improve productivity,” Minister Schäfer, said.
A two-year-old female with a high breeding value for weight was sold for the highest price of R9200. The highest price paid for a male bird was R6000. This bird had a negative breeding value for the occurrence of hair follicles on leather.
Hair follicles are small holes that can be seen on the processed skins and they deemed undesirable as it is detrimental to leather quality. The holes are the follicles of fine hairs or filo plumes that occur on the ostrich skin.
Research done by Dr Anel Engelbrecht, a scientist at the Oudtshoorn Research Farm showed that the occurrence of the hairs is hereditary and can therefore be selected against.
This year’s auction was the first where breeding values for the occurrence of hair follicles were given in addition to breeding values for reproduction (egg and chick production) and weight.
Dr Schalk Cloete, specialist scientist at Elsenburg, conducted a multiple trait analysis that included data for the evaluation of hairs on live ostriches, as well as for hair follicles on skins in order to estimate breeding values for hair follicles.
Minister Schäfer said: “The successful auction coupled with the resumption of trade with the EU are positive signs which we hope will soon contribute to the full recovery of this sector. The ostrich industry is an important contributor to the Western Cape economy and is responsible for creating thousands of jobs, particularly in the Southern Cape and Klein Karoo regions of our province.”