Livestock farmers in Limpopo will be breathing a sigh of relief as the government unbanned livestock auctions. File picture.
Livestock farmers in Limpopo will be breathing a sigh of relief as the government unbanned livestock auctions. File picture.

Minister lifts ban on animal gatherings after FMD outbreak in SA

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Feb 18, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Livestock farmers in Limpopo will be breathing a sigh of relief as the government unbanned livestock auctions, albeit temporarily, which had been imposed to curtail the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the country. Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza yesterday lifted the ban on animal gatherings three months after announcing a blanket bank due to the FMD outbreak.

Didiza’s decision followed the briefing she received from the technical task team over the weekend. She said auctions would only be conducted under stringent conditions and that all livestock agents must be registered with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council.

“I wish to remind all livestock keepers of their responsibilities in terms of Section 11 of the Animal Diseases Act, 1984, that any owner or manager of land on which there are animals take all reasonable steps to prevent the infection of the animals with any animal disease, or parasite and the spreading thereof from the relevant land or animals,” Didiza said.

Didiza reiterated that lifting the temporary ban on gatherings of animals did not imply that such activities were safe. She urged all auctioneers to familiarise themselves with their implementing of measures to prevent their animals from becoming infected.

“I am aware of the social and economic impact this decision had on livestock owners, traders and the general sector stakeholders. I want to reassure the nation that this decision was not taken lightly and was implemented as a disease control measure,” she said. Economists said the industry had taken a serious financial knock during the three-month ban. They said it would take a while before farmers recovered economically.

Agribiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said the lifting of the ban on livestock movement was a positive development as it would allow the livestock sector to be back on business.

“The economic recovery of the industry, however, will take a while, as the recent FMD outbreak came months after the previous one early in 2019, and before that effects of the 2015-16 drought were still underpinning the industry,” Sihlobo said.

“As positive as this is, the responsibility of adhering to the regulations outlined by the department regarding the movement of livestock is key and all industry role-players should take cognisance thereof.”

The Molemole outbreak was reported on November 1 in a feed lot in the Capricorn District in Limpopo.

This outbreak was caused by a SAT 2 similar to the one that caused the outbreak in Vhembe last January.

Following initial investigations, the outbreak could be linked to four auctions held at two auction premises in September and October 2019.

In order to prevent further explosive distribution of the infection and allow the veterinary officials to determine the extent of the spread, an intensive system of tracking and tracing livestock movements and locations was put in place.

Paul Makube, a senior agricultural economist at FNB Agri-Business, said recurrence of the FMD had further limited the country’s export potential due to restrictions. Makube said cash strapped cattle producers faced financial pressures as they could not easily market their livestock.

“Therefore, the lifting of the ban on live auctions is a welcome relieve for producers, auctioneers, feedlots and other stakeholders across the value chain. The market can now return to normality and correct the supply imbalance that was caused by the ban,” Makube said.

“Nonetheless, the FMD situation is not declared over yet and activities in the value chain must be conducted along strict measures that have already been implemented.”

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