Namibia looks to import cattle as drought decimates local herds

WINDHOEK, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Namibian state-owned meat processing and marketing firm Meatco is in talks with neighbour Botswana to import cattle, as severe drought decimates local herds and threatens beef export deals with China and European countries.

The southern African desert nation moved closer to famine last month after dam levels fell below 20%, a drop officials blame on climate change and the worst drought in almost a century that also hit South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Meatco Acting Chairperson Ronald Kubas told Reuters on Tuesday that his company had recently visited Botswana and that buying cattle from there made sense because Botswana had the same animal health standards as Namibia.

Namibia became the second African country after South Africa to meet China's stringent import conditions for bone-in beef last year.

China's massive population has seen its appetite for beef grow after an outbreak of African swine fever wiped out hundreds of millions of pigs.

Namibia currently exports 10,000 metric tons of beef a year to the European Union.

A five-year drought in southern Africa has caused plunging dam levels in Zambia and Zimbabwe which have resulted in power cuts. In parts of South Africa, people have been drilling boreholes and trucking in water. (Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; editing by Alexander Winning, William Maclean)