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SA horses get green light to fly around the world | The Citizen



EU drops ban on equine exports that has hobbled local racing and breeding

Blockages to shipping South African horses around the world have been swept away. This long overdue news brings great cheer to local thoroughbred racing and breeding industries that have been under growing economic strain.

The European Union has lifted a 13-year ban on all equine exports, which also affected movement of horses to other regions such as Asia and Australasia – and notably the Middle East, where Joburg trainer Mike de Kock once put South African racehorses on the world map with his stunning successes.

This dramatic development follows a 2022 audit of South African export protocols by an EU investigation team – which had been delayed by two years due to the pandemic (not to mention associated alleged diplomatic friction over chicken imports).

Rule changes

On Monday, SA Equine Health and Protocols announced that EU bureaucrats had changed their rules to allow the Kenilworth quarantine station and surrounding areas of Western Cape back onto a list of “authorised zones” for direct entry into Europe “following the required in-country pre-export quarantine period”.

This quarantine period is likely to be a matter of weeks, instead of the crippling sojourn of up to six months and lengthy stopovers in third countries before a horse could reach its destination.

That state of affairs came about after outbreaks of the deadly African horse sickness in South Africa in the late noughties.

Lengthy process

It has been 13 years since South Africa was last able to export registered equines directly to the EU.

SAEHP was formed in 2018 to try to solve the problem and has been working with the government on it for six years. Involvement of the Department of Agriculture was required to deal with the EU at the state

Important assistance – financial and advisory – was received from the powerful Hong Kong Jockey Club, which has been keen to see South African horse racing and its breeding component thrive and reach its high potential.

David Abery, SAEHP chairman, said: “This is very exciting news, and thank you to everyone involved in making it happen. It is anticipated that this opening up of direct EU exports will, over time, give a significant boost to not just the South African thoroughbred racing and breeding industry, but also to the other equine disciplines, all of which have been somewhat internationally isolated for many years.

‘Efficient and strong system’

“It is vital that what has now been achieved is maintained and we look forward to working with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the functions of SAEHP are well funded and developed as required, so that we can support industry in maximising the value which flows from an efficient and strong horse export system.”

Dr Mpho Maja, director animal health at the Department of Agriculture, commented: “I am very pleased with the outcome; this shows that, when we work together, we can achieve what is thought to be impossible. I send my gratitude to the equine industry and provincial veterinary services for the support provided in ensuring compliance to the requirements. I look forward to our horses flying the flag internationally and making us all proud.”

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