Government action needed to stop unwarranted, job-killing China export ban on SA wool

Agri SA and the National Wool Growers’ Association of South Africa (NWGA) are extremely concerned about the unjustifiable ban on wool exports to China due to recent Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks in parts of the country. The first wool auction for the 2022/23 season is scheduled for 17 August 2022 and, with 70-80% of the South African clip traditionally destined for China, the ban will have a devastating effect on the local wool industry.  

The value of the South Africa wool clip is around R5billion per annum. Since the ban was announced in April 2022, the South African wool industry has thus far lost an estimated R734 million in wool exports to China. The ban also threatens the livelihoods of the industry’s 35 000 workers as well as 4 500 seasonal sheep shearers and wool handlers. 

The ban is unwarranted since South Africa has protocols in place that regulate the storage of wool after shearing for a specified time at required minimum temperatures as stipulated by the terrestrial code of the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH). These measures were negotiated with Chinese Authorities during the 2019 outbreak to limit the disruption to trade in circumstances such as the current one.   

All export facilities in South Africa have been registered with the Chinese authorities to ensure proper monitoring and accurate certification. Furthermore, though wool sheep are, like all cloven-hoofed animals, susceptible to be infected by FMD, no outbreaks have been recorded in recognised wool producing areas  nor have any small stock been diagnosed with FMD.  

With the auction date looming for the country’s wool, it is essential that Ministers Thoko Didiza and Ebrahim Patel intervene to secure the industry’s access to the Chinese market. Failure to act will have devastating consequences for industry’s workers, and for small scale producers in particular. 

‘We are concerned about the emerging and communal wool producing sector in particular, as most of their clip is destined for export to China. More than 40 000 small scale producers market close to six million kg of wool annually valued at an estimated R300 million. These producers and surrounding communities will fall back into poverty should the Chinese market remain closed for wool from South Africa’, says Christo van der Rheede, Executive Director of Agri SA and Leon de Beer, CEO of NWGA. 

Many commercial wool sheep producers have only recently emerged from an extended period of drought, and if wool exports to China cannot resume due to the ban, these farmers may not  survive.  

Agri SA and NWGA can only trust that the South African authorities will make every effort to address this issue with the Chinese authorities as a matter of urgency. South African wool is safe for export, and we must resolve this matter quickly for the sake of the livelihoods on the line.  

Media Enquiries:

Christo van der Rheede

Agri SA, Executive Director

083 380 3492

Leon de Beer

NWGA, General Manager

082 890 6625