Key Topic – Trade with South Africa

In November 2015, President Obama sent notifications to Congress and to the government of South Africa indicating that he intends to suspend trade benefits to South African agricultural products under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), for failure to meet certain benchmarks to eliminate barriers for U.S. pork, beef and poultry. The Administration said it would take action 60 days after this notification unless South Africa makes greater progress in this area. As this deadline drew near, the two countries announced that a deal had been struck on beef, pork and poultry access that would allow South Africa to retain its AGOA benefits. On Jan. 15, South Africa opened to U.S. beef from cattle (of any age) slaughtered after June 24, 2015. This was the first time the market had accepted U.S. beef since December 2003.

At the time of the beef reopening, South Africa did not yet reopen to U.S. pork. The Obama Administration set another deadline of March 15 for suspension of South Africa’s AGOA benefits, to ensure that South Africa followed through on its commitment to allow access for U.S. pork and to ensure movement of beef and poultry into the market.

On Feb. 26, 2016, the market opened to U.S. pork – but with restrictions. Pork variety meat is not eligible, and only certain muscle cuts, with visible lymph nodes removed, may be sold at retail. Other muscle cuts may be shipping directly to approved facilities for further processing. (This is similar to the level of access U.S. pork has in New Zealand.)

On March 3, 2016, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters that South Africa has met the agreed-upon benchmarks for opening its market to U.S. beef, pork and poultry, but cautioned that his office continues to monitor the situation. On March 14, the White House announced that President Obama had revoked his order suspending South Africa’s AGOA benefits.

UPDATE: In May 2016, the initial shipment of U.S. pork arrived in South Africa. Some cuts designated for unrestricted sale were rejected due to the presence of lymph nodes. USMEF provided more details on this situation in this Exporter Alert.

UPDATE: South African customs officials are applying an “absence of lymph tissue” standard for any U.S. pork cuts designated for unrestricted sale (in other words, all cuts not destined for an approved facility in South Africa for further processing). Because this resulted in the rejection of some U.S. bone-in and boneless pork butts and boneless picnics in the initial trial shipment of U.S. pork to South Africa, the FSIS Export Library for South Africa has now been amended to reflect this standard, with the removal of the words “all visible and superficial” from the pork documentation requirements. USMEF provided more details on this situation in this Exporter Update.

UPDATE: On Aug. 18, USMEF held its first buyers seminar in South Africa. More details are available in this USMEF news release.

UPDATE: Since the South African market reopened to U.S. meat, several U.S. facilities have been added to the eligible plant list for South Africa.

South Africa has already emerged as a significant destination for beef variety meat (mainly livers). In the first three quarters of 2017, South Africa was the fourth-largest volume destination for U.S. beef variety meat, with exports totaling reaching 10,444 mt – an increase of nearly 250 percent from a year ago – valued at $8.2 million.