EU 'Blocking SA's Right to Export Tons of Cheese'

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BYLINE: CRAIG McKUNE

DAIRY farmers say they're sitting on 8 000 tons of cheese ready for export to the European Union, but are blocked by protectionist measures dressed up as sanitary standards.

This is according to a report released yesterday that consolidates the responses from Western Cape dairy farmers and other industry players at a dairy "crisis" summit last month.

The meeting was called by MEC for Agriculture Cobus Dowry in response to the dwindling profits for dairy farmers that have driven many off the land.

South Africa could export up to 8 000 tons of duty-free cheese to the EU under a reciprocal trade agreement, Dirk Troskie, an agricultural economist with the provincial Department of Agriculture, said.

He said South African dairy products were safe for consumption and accepted throughout the rest of the world.

While the country also placed standards on EU dairy imports, specifically relating to mad cow disease, Troskie said those put in place by the EU were often "used as a mechanism to keep certain products out of the market".

The department was to investigate the possibility of taking up the dispute with the World Trade Organisation's committee on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, he said.

Another possible response to the export problem, Dowry said, was to target untapped markets, particularly those in the Southern African Development Community, more aggressively. …