Fancy a bowl of antelope noodles? Namibia eyes meat exports to Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities will visit the country to assess the condition of farms in coming weeks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 4:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 9:52am

The city could soon be importing beef - and even antelope - from Namibia, if the southwest African country's export application is approved by local authorities.

A team of Hong Kong officers will visit Namibia in the coming weeks to check on the condition of farms there, according to Namibian Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein.

The minister said the application, filed late last year, already had in-principle support from Hong Kong.

Namibian beef is sold in the form of high-end products across the Scandinavian market. Its selling point is that the meat comes from free-range cattle, which are free of hormone treatments and mad cow disease.

But farmers are now turning their attention to the fast-growing Asian market - especially China.

A delegation from mainland China was already in Namibia inspecting farms, Schlettwein said.

Exporters are interested not just in the size of the Chinese market, but also its different tastes. In Europe, the preference is for steak and premium products. But in China, consumers buy all cuts - including offal.

"In Hong Kong and [mainland] China, we have the possibility to trade with all parts of a cow including steak, fillet and low-end offal," Schlettwein said, noting Hongkongers' taste for offal. "We [Namibians] like offal very much. It's a traditional cuisine."

The country is also looking for buyers for more unusual products, such as antelope. "They [antelopes] are in abundance, very low in cholesterol and tasty. They are a strong competitor to beef," he said.

Greater China is Namibia's sixth-largest export market, receiving US$133.1 million worth of goods - mostly raw materials - from the African country last year, the minister said.

Schlettwein, who was in Hong Kong last week at the end of a trip to promote the country's trade, said Beijing had agreed to set up meat-processing facilities in Namibia. "We cannot maintain the position as only a raw material supplier. We must add value," he said, adding that the ties with China gave Namibia a chance to diversify.

A Centre for Food Safety spokesman said the application from Namibia was still being assessed. He did not say when it expected to complete the process.

Imports of game, meat and poultry are regulated under the Imported Game, Meat and Poultry Regulations. Any country wanting to export meat to Hong Kong must provide information including details of legislation governing hygiene standards, the animal disease situation, details of inspections by veterinarians and conditions on farms, the spokesman said. Some 20 countries export beef to Hong Kong.