By: Katlego Legodi
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana has called for calm following an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in the country.
Zokwana met with agriculture industry captains in Pretoria yesterday, to iron out differences following challenges that have led to the banning of the country’s red meat by neighbouring countries.
The disease has been detected in more than 15, 000 cattle in Limpopo’s Vhembe district with officials hard at work to avoid the situation worsening.
Foot and mouth disease affects cloven-hooved cattle, such as sheep, goats and deer and has the potential to spread rapidly, because it is highly contagious.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says the Sundanie Village in Limpopo’s Vhembe district where the outbreak was discovered has been quarantined and that the vaccination process has begun to avoid further infections.
Zokwana has announced a technical task team that will hit the ground running in communicating South Africa’s efforts to tackle the outbreak with neighbouring countries
“The different task teams will include experts who will determine the amount of animals that have been affected,” said Zokwana
The country has experienced export bans of its red meat after the World Organisation for Animal Health temporarily suspended South Africa status.
The sector, especially those who are importing red meat, has suffered a huge blow with Zimbabwe being the latest to join Botswana, Eswatini and Namibia in banning red meat imports from South Africa.
The Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak has also caused panic around consumers over its safety.
“The department would love to assure consumers that the outbreak will not impact on the price of red meat or the health of consumers” added Zokwana.
The Red Meat Producers Association says South Africa stands to lose R6 billion rand a year worth of trade if it fails to ensure the ban on meat to other countries is lifted.
The multi-billion rand meat industry has been hard hit following the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in Limpopo.
Agriculture minister Senzeni Zokwana has also expressed concerns about the money the country has been losing over the halting of meat exports by neighbouring countries.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says a trade committee from the task teams will also engage with foreign markets where the industry exports meat.
The Red Meat Producers Organisation CEO, Gerhad Skitte, says failure to immediately address the foot and mouth disease outbreak will see prices of meat go up which is not good news for consumers.
“It is all about supply and demand and we are in a free market. We export about 3% of local production that will not go out anymore if the ban persists” said Skitte
The task teams are expected to give weekly updates on progress of efforts to address the Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak.