SA seeking to reopen red meat export

Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

MEASURES IN PLACE: Tina Joemat - Petterseson at a media briefing in Cape Town yesterday. Photo: Courtney Africa. Credit: Courtney Africa

ALTHOUGH South Africa’s foot and mouth disease-free status was officially regained last week after being suspended for three years, export markets have not been reopened.

The government first had to negotiate with governments of former trading partners to get them to reopen trade with South Africa, Mpho Maja, director of animal health at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said yesterday.

She was not able to predict how long this would take.

The export ban, which cost the country an estimated R3 billion a year, came into effect in February 2011 after the World Organisation for Animal Health suspended the South Africa’s former foot and mouth disease-free status after an outbreak of the disease.

Maja said the foot and mouth virus was endemic in South African wild buffalo and “now and then spills over” into domestic cattle. The ban affected all cloven-hoofed livestock.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced a range of measures yesterday designed to ensure the country keeps its disease-free status, and also to boost the country’s veterinary services. These include:

Because of lack of investment in agricultural research and development, Onderstepoort had ceased producing vaccines and the foot and mouth vaccines had to be imported from Botswana.

Joemat-Pettersson said the funding injection would ensure South Africa was not dependent on vaccine imports.

The department was working with universities and other research institutions in this regard.

“But it won’t happen overnight.”

Gerhard Schutte, head of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, said South Africa was a net importer of beef (10 percent) which came mainly from Botswana and Namibia, and of mutton (24 percent) which came mainly from Namibia with a small amount from overseas.

The export ban had therefore not affected the export of beef and mutton, but had had a huge impact on the export of wool, dairy, game, hides, skins and stud animals.

“We only exported about 1 percent of our red meat, but now with the change in the rand-dollar rate, it could become lucrative to export red meat,” Schutte said.