China has banned the import of sheep and wool from South Africa following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the nation.
The ban came into place at the start of April on the back of FMD outbreaks in the North West, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Limpopo provinces and covers all cloven-hoofed animals and their products.
A similar ban was enforced in 2019 due to an FMD outbreak, with the restrictions remaining in place for eight months.
Industry body Cape Wools SA issued a statement saying the ban has already had a "massive impact" on the South African wool industry.
"The importance of the South African wool industry can not be over emphasised, as it supports around 40,000 communal and 8000 commercial farmers, their families and their dependents, as well as the farm workers employed within the industry," Cape Wools SA said
"Communal farmers, in particular, rely on the Chinese market for the sale of their wool."
Cape Wools SA said that given the 2019 ban ended with the implementation of new measures for imports to China, the announcement of a new ban came as a surprise.
"The wool industry is currently engaged with both national and international stakeholders to impress upon them the fact that wool already complies with export requirements in terms of freedom from foot and mouth disease and should be excluded from this ban," it said.
South African wool auctions have been postponed until more clarity about the duration and details of the ban is obtained from Chinese authorities.
Australian Wool Innovation CEO John Roberts it was a difficult situation to assess in terms of how the Australian wool industry might be impacted, given the COVID-19 lockdowns in parts of China right now.
"It is unclear when some major textile factories in China will reopen and as a result what impact the import ban on South African wool will have on creating extra demand for Australian wool," he said.
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