South Africa (SA), the world's third largest producer of wool used to make clothes, has stopped some wool exports to China, its biggest customer, after an outbreak of Rift Valley fever infected sheep flocks in five provinces.
The halt of exports from some of the affected areas could cost producers 35 million rand (US$4.7 million) of sales this season, Cape Wools SA, a Port Elizabeth-based sheep-farmers group, said.
China accounts for about 60 percent of the wool exported from SA. The industry supports as many as 18,000 farmers who have a sheep flock of 14 million and produce about 50 million kilograms (110 million pounds) of wool annually.
"There has to be negotiations before we can export from those areas to China again," Ona Viljoen, a spokeswoman for Cape Wools said from Port Elizabeth, the largest city in the Eastern Cape, the country's biggest wool-producing province. "SA will start formal talks with China to try and re-start shipments. Exports to other countries are unaffected."
While China is a signatory to the World Organization for Animal Health protocol that stipulates that wool imports are not subject to Rift Valley fever curbs, the country's documentation still blocks imports from affected areas, Viljoen said.
The disease has spread into the North West, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng provinces, SA's health department said. Free State is the second-largest wool producing province. The country has nine provinces.
Reprinted in part from Bloomburg