KwaZulu-Natal meat producers are concerned about the effect of the ban on the export of South African red meat after a strain of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was discovered in Limpopo last week.
SA’s FMD-free status was suspended after the disease was confirmed by the FMD laboratory and the matter was reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, eSwatini and Mozambique have announced a complete ban on importing South African meat until they have proof that the disease has been contained.
Sandy le Marque, the CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), told Business Day that farmers in the province are deeply affected by the ban and the ensuing panic about the disease. “The impact of a serious disease such as FMD is really serious for agriculture as a whole. What remains critical is for livestock producers in KwaZulu-Natal to tighten up their bio-security protocols, remain vigilant and follow the disease management information.”
A study conducted by the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) found in 2017 that if the country lost its FMD-free status, the economy would lose about R6bn a year. The country lost its FMD-free status in 2011 after an outbreak and only regained it in 2014, at a cost of R4bn to the economy, according to the organisation.
On Monday, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries Senzeni Zokwana met red meat producers from around the country and said he was confident his department will be able to contain the outbreak to the Vhembe District in Limpopo.
The stakeholders have agreed to form a joint operations centre to deal with any problems arising from the outbreak.
Zokwana said the government will try and convince the neighbouring countries and other trading partners to continue importing meat from non-affected part of SA.
“We want to emphasise that the outbreak is limited to Vhembe District, at Sundani Village. There are less than 50 affected cattle in an area with about 10,000 to 15,000 cattle. The area remains under quarantine and vaccination is starting so that no further infections can occur. FMD is not transmittable to human beings and there should be no panic whatsoever,” Zokwana said.
Hendrik Botha, from the KwaZulu-Natal RPO, said the province accounts for about 30% of meat producers in the country and all of them will be severely affected if the ban persists for a long period of time. He said, however, they are not folding their hands during the crisis.
“We are working with the government and other stakeholders to mitigate the impact of the outbreak and the ban on South African red meat. So this is not the end of the world and we are confident that a solution will be found,” he said. “It is good to know that the government has sent a team of experts and vets to the affected area so that this outbreak is contained and other areas are not affected.”