(In the pic - Minister Tina Joemat Pettersson adressing the briefing) Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson addressing the media on the lifting of the ban on the export of SA red meat. GCIS Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament, Cape Town.

Johannesburg - The government is mobilising its plans for the construction of a R500 million state-of-the-art veterinary institute for better monitoring of foot-and-mouth disease.

The disease was the cause of the EU’s ban on South African red meat exports, which has just been lifted.

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said the department would step up its efforts to ensure that South Africa maintained its status as free of foot-and-mouth disease by developing medium- and long-term interventions to bolster bio-security controls.

She said achieving the status as free of foot-and-mouth disease appeared high on the department’s sector priorities in the Agricultural Policy Action Plan, which was in the final stages of consultation before going to the cabinet.

The plan would include a focus on increasing the department’s efficiencies of extension services and the expansion of veterinary services through compulsory community service. This would include the deployment of recently acquired mobile veterinary clinics.

Last week, the International Animal Health Organisation declared South Africa was free of foot-and-mouth disease but said it would continue to ensure that required measures were fully implemented in the disease control areas of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.

The ban was imposed in 2011 and has cost the red meat industry about R4 billion.

Joemat-Pettersson said her department was working closely with provincial departments to establish a livestock identification and tracing system areas prone to foot-and-mouth disease. This would allow the department to track and trace every animal in contaminated areas.

Red meat producers and other animal product industries – such as the wool sector – hailed the lifting of the ban.

The dairy industry, which was slightly tainted by the ban, said yesterday that the image of South Africa’s livestock industry had suffered.

Nico Fouche, the chief executive of Milk SA, said dairy producers were not severely affected because they had been able to export heat-treated products while the ban was in place.

“After the ban was imposed in 2011, Milk SA and other livestock institutions revived the National Health Forum with a view to promoting co-operation between the livestock industries and the state veterinary services,” Fouche said.

The milk industry has begun a national disease monitoring and extension system project, which will inform the dairy industry about the country’s disease status.

The red meat industry said the lifting of the ban came at a time of rand weakness against the dollar. This would give the industry a chance to take advantage of the weak currency for meat exports.

But it indicated South Africa was a net importer of red meat. The country exported only about 1 percent of the 600 000 tons of red meat it produced every year. - Business Report