SOUTH Africa’s Bloodstock Shipping Industry may well be on the verge of much better times, but for the time being they remain in limbo, alongside the racing and breeding industries.
Adrian Todd, MD of South African Equine Health & Protocols (SAEHP), charged with African Horse Sickness (AHS) risk mitigation and working in public/ private partnership with government to normalise SA’s export protocols, said: “From a South African perspective, the inability to trade sports horses overseas has only caused pain.
“The international bloodstock business must also be taking into consideration the inability to trade internationally severely curtails the bloodstock industry and in South Africa we’ve seen in recent years a massive reduction in breeders due to this.”
Multiple South African champion trainer Mike de Kock said that he was very worried about the impact of Covid-19 travel restrictions on the industry.
“Before the lockdown we were well on target for an audit of the South African export protocols. An audit date had been announced by the European Union. We had prepared for this audit over several years and our SAEHP had put every requited control system in place, conforming to the highest international standards, to ensure that we’d make the grade.
“A successful audit would’ve allowed us to send runners direct to racing jurisdictions around the world for international competition, whilst opening up our bloodstock sales market to global buyers who are familiar with our high-quality bloodstock but have
held back their full support due to the restrictive export protocols.
“An open sales market will have huge, positive spin-offs for our industry for obvious economic reasons, but Covid-19 has set the process back indefinitely and our existing export crisis has been aggravated.
“This has been a knockout blow to South African racing and breeding. If we don’t have lockdown restrictions lifted by the beginning of June so racing can proceed, we’ll be in trouble. If we’re only allowed to race by the end of June, it will be the end of us!”
JJ van der Linden of South Africa’s Global Bloodstock Logistics noted that Covid-19 will have a knock-on effect in terms of flight availability and future costs of shipping. This was echoed by Candice Hobday who runs Hobday Equestrian Enterprises, another prominent shipper.
Hobday said: “We have horses stuck in Europe and in Mauritius. The European horses were in quarantine and about ready to be shipped when the lockdowns were instated. They have now been released from quarantine and are costing their owners money, to be paid in Euro, and at a fee of about €1,000 per month, the equivalent of about ZAR19,000 at current exchange rates.
“The horses in Mauritius can’t get clearance certificates and are also stuck. The Mauritians have extended their lockdown and they do not have a testing laboratory. The blood samples are flown to South Africa to be tested here but that can’t happen now because there are no passenger flights.”
Hobday said that, with the normal passenger flights that carried many loads of smaller ordinary cargo now suspended, several airlines had converted some of their passenger planes to cargo planes. They have pulled the seats out to cater to the increased demand for the shipping of smaller packages. This will have an effect on cargo charges for bloodstock shipping.
“It’s a question of supply and demand, and the result of the greater demand for small cargo shipping has resulted in a price hike on the bloodstock side. Charter planes are available at random, but also at increased costs.”
Hobday said that 60-70% of existing bloodstock exports from South Africa had been endurance horses to places like Saudi-Arabia and Dubai and that, aside from Covid-19, those shipments would also be affected by the falling oil price.
She also pointed to the plight of veterinarians or expert handlers who would, as a rule, travel with horses to overseas destinations to ensure their safety and well-being. “The problem here, again, is that are no passenger flights on which they can return from where they’ve travelled to on cargo, and that they are required to spend two weeks in quarantine. I have addressed this, however, and a solution is at hand.”
In all, Hobday assessed, Covid-19 is having, and will have, hugely detrimental ramifications for the industry. She concluded: “I am alarmed and I have to say the immediate future looks bleak. I’d say it will take us at least two years to recover from this, and maybe just as long for prices to stabilise because owners will be hesitant to commit to exports or imports.
“But the bright side is that horse people are passionate and resilient and we will undoubtedly recover from this, especially if our EU audit can take place as soon as possible and we can start exporting.”