South African Horse Exports Could Surge as Controls Recognized

South Africa’s horse exports could rise fourfold if the recognition of the country’s controls on African Horse Sickness by the World Organization for Animal Health eases shipments, Racing South Africa said.

The controls were recognized late last month, South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries said on June 6. The country has the immediate potential to export 300 horses annually, Peter Gibson, the chief executive officer of Durban-based Racing South Africa, said in an e-mailed response to questions late yesterday.

“With improved protocols, this figure could double within 24 months,” Gibson said of the country’s potential exports.

Before 1950 South Africa exported a total of about 300,000 horses, according to Racing South Africa. The continent was declared endemic for African Horse Sickness in the late 1950s meaning that South African horses had to be quarantined before if they were sold to buyers in the U.S, boosting costs. The first exports from South Africa took place in 1788.

An outbreak of the disease near the town of Stellenbosch in 2004 halted all exports for two years and horses sent to Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates were subjected to lengthier quarantine periods.

South African horses are prized for sporting use, most notably endurance races and thoroughbred racing, Gibson said. They are also used for polo.

The new measures will help improve the way infected countries export by having proper controls or surveillance, more flexibility and better protection to resume exports faster following an outbreak, Gibson said.

The industry currently has 500 registered breeders and 3,500 foals are produced a year, according to Racing South Africa.