The South African ostrich industry is welcoming its 5-month breathing space after EU officials agreed to postpone the implementation of new health regulations until next May.

The new rule, which was actually enforced on 1 October, demands that all ostrich meat is accompanied by health certificates that show the results of six months worth of trachea tests and prove that there is no presence of Newcastle disease. As the head of the South African Ostrich Business Chamber, Willem Burger, revealed: “The industry is just coming out of a very severe depression. About 30% of the ostrich industry’s income is from the meat, and about 90% of that is exported to Europe. We could not have afforded this.”

The industry has suffered a boom-bust cycle since the beginning of last century, but was enjoying the recent demand for low-fat ostrich meat until a three-year drought, the collapse of Far East market and high interest rates all took their toll.

Burger stressed that breeders already clinically monitor their stock for Newcastle disease and many were starting the necessary moves to take regular trachea tests so as to bring themselves in line with the EU regulations. The exports to the EU are worth about US$13m.