BEEF producers in South Africa have decried some elements of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which they said lacked clarity on the available opportunities.

In a statement yesterday, Roelie van Reenen, the supply chain executive at Beefmaster Group, said there were a few elements that needed to be better understood before the beef industry could successfully leverage the agreement to its benefit.

Beefmaster is a leading specialist supplier of beef products to the South African and global markets.

He said the agriculture sector needed clarity on the plan whereby South African producers are urged by the government to seize the opportunities provided by the agreement, given that it aims to eliminate 90 percent of tariffs on goods and services for inter-continental trade, and projections suggest that it could increase intra-African trade by at least a third.

“AfCFTA is well positioned to unlock positive spin off for South Africa and the agri-sector, but we need a more robust and practical plan as to how the picture can look before deep-diving into opportunities,” said Van Reenen. “We are keen to see what the opportunity is, and how we will be able to benefit from the deepened trade and open supply chain with the continent.”

Touted to boost intra-African trade through reduced or zero tariffs, AfCFTA is regarded as presenting the local agricultural and agro-processing sectors with access to previously inaccessible markets and improved ease of access to the existing market.

Beefmaster has been calling for access to more markets to create opportunities on the global stage for South African beef to shine.

Van Reenen said although AfCFTA may soon become part of the country’s operating environment, the group is cautious to jump in head first, as it may introduce both threats and opportunities to the country’s stance around imports and exports.

“But there are barriers we have to overcome,” said Van Reenen. “Barriers have been created by borders, high tariffs, policies and regulation and political unrest, but if the AfCFTA can be successfully implemented by addressing these barriers, the challenges of trading with the rest of Africa could be considerably less,” he said.

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