SA needs to produce its own foot-and-mouth disease vaccine, says animal health forum

A health officer checks cattle at a farm as a preventative measure against foot-and-mouth disease. File photo: Reuters.

A health officer checks cattle at a farm as a preventative measure against foot-and-mouth disease. File photo: Reuters.

Published Apr 21, 2023


South Africa needs to produce its own foot-an- mouth disease vaccine, which would be a great win for local veterinary services, according to the National Animal Health Forum (NAHF).

The NAHF aims to promote and improve the health status of the national livestock herds and flocks in order to promote sustainable livestock production and food safety.

NAHF chairperson Gerhard Schutte said in an interview with Business Report this week that the organisation, along with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (Dalrrd), supported this process.

“The insufficient provision of critical strategic vaccines has identified the need for the private sector to work together with the government to produce and distribute these vaccines where needed to provide preventative measures for curbing outbreaks of diseases,” Schutte said.

“The private veterinarians have indicated their willingness to assist in areas where additional capacity is needed. A process of authorisation of private veterinarians to perform government functions in the field has been welcomed by the national director of Animal Health.”

According to the NAHF, it has been calculated that 1.2 million South African households had livestock for their livelihoods, therefore, affecting the emerging sector. Some of these diseases were also zoonotic diseases affecting the human population.

“The NAHF has worked tirelessly with the officials from Dalrrd and the provinces to get the national identification and traceability system (LITS SA) up and running. The system will assist in the traceability of animals and their products and will improve the possibility of opening more markets for trade,” he said.

Schutte said the NAHF had created a genetic export advisory committee where the proposal to have private veterinary consultancies assist the department in the completion of dossiers for export had received the necessary approval.

Private veterinary laboratory capacity had also been identified as a solution to capacity in areas where laboratories were needed. Private laboratories could apply for Dalrrd approval to test for state-controlled diseases. The list of laboratories approved by Dalrrd and the SA National Accreditation System (Sanas) was available on the NAHF website.

The collaboration to keep up with the promise of the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) would need to be approached as a team effort between the government and industry.

Schutte said the NAHF believed that this has already been realised by the relationship between the NAHF members and stakeholders, which had shaped with the Dalrrd Directorate of Animal Health and Production.

“The AAMP objectives can be attained through collaboration, but it is not without challenges.

“These challenges include the capacity at the government level, the insufficient supply of vaccines for state-controlled diseases, and resources for the sufficient control of animal diseases,” he said.

However, Schutte said Dalrrd would need to liaise better with the National Treasury regarding ring-fencing for sufficient funding for disease outbreaks.

The outbreaks of these diseases negatively affected the overall production of food security as well as the international trade of South African products.

Earlier this week, the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) said most interventions in the sector required better management, better co-ordination, restructuring of the various departments, and investment in fencing, new laboratory equipment, and vaccine production.

It said this was important because the livestock industry and its products (beef, lamb, wool, poultry, goats, pork, ostrich, dairy, and mohair) represented more than half of agricultural gross value-added in South Africa and provided the largest source of protein to the diets of South Africans.

“Hence, a failure to support this industry will negatively affect our agricultural fortunes and our overall inclusive growth ambitions,” Agbiz said.

During his recent visit to the Deli-Co Farmstyle Family Butchery in Riebeek-Kasteel, Western Cape Minister of Agriculture Dr Ivan Meyer said a functional professional veterinary service was critical to the agricultural sector as veterinarians played an essential role in protecting animals and the public against zoonotic diseases and diseases of economic importance.