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South African Wool Producers Seek Reversal of China Import Ban

South African wool producers are in talks with Chinese health authorities to reverse a ban on imports that has cut sales since an outbreak of Rift Valley fever, said Andre Strydom, general manager at Cape Wool SA.

The price of wool fell 6.8 percent to 60.82 rand ($8.69) a kilogram at a weekly sale in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Cape Wool SA said in a statement yesterday. Eighty-eight percent of the 11,500 bales on offer were sold, the lowest clearance rate this season, the sheep farmers’ association said.

China, which buys up to 60 percent of South Africa’s clip, has refused to supply heath certificates for wool from the country following an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in March, Cape Wools SA said. The Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Authority requires that 12 months pass after the last case of Rift Valley fever before wool can be released.

“We are currently negotiating with the Chinese Department of Commerce to change this requirement,” Strydom said in a telephone interview from Port Elizabeth today. “The disease cannot be transmitted by the wool. They need to change their regulations to conform to world standards.”

South Africa is in the process of being declared free of the disease in accordance with the World Organization for Animal Health protocols, Cape Wool SA said.

Rift Valley Fever is a viral disease originating in Africa that primarily affects livestock and can be passed to humans causing flu-like symptoms, and in rare cases, death.

No Vaccine

South Africa’s last case of Rift Valley Fever was less than three months ago, Strydom said. The outbreak may have been spurred by the hot and wet summers experienced over the past two years, causing a proliferation of mosquitoes, which are responsible for spreading the disease, he said.

The previous outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in the country was during the 1970s so farmers no longer inoculated their sheep and no vaccine was available during the latest outbreak, he said. A new vaccine was released in September and farmers have since inoculated all their sheep, Strydom said.

Exporters have been moving wool to India and Europe to try to compensate for the loss of sales to China, he said.

The final sale before the Christmas recess will take place on Dec. 8, when 11,500 bales will be offered, Cape Wool SA said. The first sale in 2011 will take place in the second week of January.

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