A row with the European Union over chickens has thwarted South Africa's plans to be opened up for direct equine exports to Europe by the end of the year.
According to Adrian Todd, boss of the government-backed SA Equine Health & Protocols, said: "The EU has stated that no audit regarding horses will be forthcoming while poultry exports to South Africa are closed after the 2017 Avian influenza outbreak.
"It's of imperative importance to us to persuade the EU to set an audit date when the EU’s veterinary officials can examine our case, and it's surely wrong to allow non-equine related trade issues to be the downfall of the South African racing industry.
"Our breeding and racing industries are at a real risk of total implosion, and that would be devastating for the thousands of families who rely on these industries for a living."
For most of the last decade horses from South Africa have only been admitted to Europe, Dubai, Hong Kong and Australia if they have spent three months in quarantine in Mauritius because of fears they might bring African Horse Sickness with them.
This has effectively closed off South Africa from the rest of the world and has had serious repercussions for its racing and breeding industries. It is difficult for South African horses to race abroad – there have been no runners from overseas in the country’s big races because they are unable to return – and stallions cannot be shuttled to the country.
An EU audit of the disease-prevention protocols is a pre-requisite of any relaxation of the export and import regulations. Todd had hoped to have had this done before the end of the year.
He engaged former Irish Equine Centre boss Des Leadon to advise on the measures to be adopted in order to satisfy EU officials, and Leadon has already conducted two trial audits in advance of the all-important EU one.
Todd added: “We believe that we have made such gigantic strides that we no longer need to prove that we present a risk, perceived or real, but we are aware that we need the world much more than they need us.
“However, we never envisaged that chickens would be the bugbear for our bloodstock industry. Sadly that is the case.”
He is appealing to racing and breeding industries in Europe for help to press his case and has taken a leaf out of the Boris Johnson slogan book, declaring “Let’s push this over the line” as his new mantra.