South African meat industry suffers from foot-and-mouth outbreak

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

South Africa's red meat sector has been affected by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease
South Africa's red meat sector has been affected by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease

Related tags Beef

The South African red meat industry has reported serious losses following a ban on exports from neighbouring countries due to confirmation of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

In a statement issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the nation’s red meat industry, the case of FMD was confirmed in the Vhembe district, in Limpopo, after cases were reported to state veterinarians who then conducted tests to cattle in the area.

This led the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to suspend South African FMD-free status, which in turn has caused a few neighbouring trading countries to ban exports. According to the statement, “These bans have caused serious loss to the industry.”

“The impact this has had to trade in the past week has been devastating to say the least,” ​said a spokesman. “I urge all affected industries to work with my team in minimising the impact. This can be achieved if we all take responsibility to avoid unnecessary panic and stress, and by approaching trade partners for the necessary confirmations of trade of cloven-hoofed products to their territories.

“We have notified most of our trade partners and have started offering them assurances, especially for trade in products that do not pose a risk of transmitting the disease, such as heat-treated meat and dairy products, deboned and matured beef, scoured wool, salted hides and skins, and livestock embryos.”

The Government stressed that the outbreak was limited to Vhembe district, at Sundani village, and that the number of affected cattle was less than 50 in an area with about 10,000 to 15,000 head. The area is under quarantine and vaccination processes have begun in an attempt to prevent further infections while an investigation into the outbreak takes place.

The spokesman added that regaining OIE FMD-free status would be difficult. “The question in the minds of most of those affected is when can the OIE FMD-free status be regained? This is a long process, which is going to be very demanding on us. First, we have to successfully contain the outbreak through movement control and vaccination, while at the same time investigating the extent of the outbreak, which is what we are currently doing. Then, we must prove that it was a limited incident, through active surveillance outside of the vaccinated area. Considering that animals in the formerly free zone will be vaccinated, these have to be clearly marked and removed from the area once the situation calms down, if we intend to include the same area in the free zone again.”

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