If China refuses to lift the ban, SA will look to alternative markets such as the European Union and Egypt.

China has lifted restrictions on wool imports from South Africa, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development said on Tuesday afternoon.

The value of wool produced in SA is about R5 billion a year. Usually 70% to 80% is exported to China. In April this year, China imposed a ban on the import of South African wool following outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in parts of the country.

The recent first auction of SA’s new wool auction this season has already seen a sharp drop in prices due to the Chinese ban. Leon de Beer, CEO of the National Wool Growers Association of South Africa (NWGA), warned at the time of even greater impacts if the Chinese ban remained in place.

In addition to the approximately 8,000 commercial sheep, there are approximately 40,000 community smallholder farmers who account for 14% of South Africa’s total wool exports. South Africa’s wool industry estimates that it lost approximately 734 million rand from exporting wool to China.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Toka Didiza and Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said in a statement that they welcomed China’s decision to lift the ban.

According to Patel, the engagement with China has been “positive and the coordinated efforts of various parts of the South African government have been very helpful.”

Local agricultural organizations considered China’s ban unjustified, as no outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease had been recorded so far in the main wool-growing areas. In addition, the local wool industry takes measures to protect the wool.

Last week, Didiza announced a national 21-day ban on the movement of cattle to stop the spread of the disease, one of the world’s most infectious animal diseases. There will be exceptions, including in the presence of a veterinary permit for direct slaughter at registered slaughterhouses and for ritual slaughter.

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