Bio-security threats to agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal cannot be ignored and could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, the DA in the province said. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

Durban - Bio-security threats to agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal cannot be ignored and could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, the Democratic Alliance in the province said on Sunday.

The DA in KwaZulu-Natal would soon embark on a series of oversight inspections of the Lesotho, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), and Mozambique border regions as well as the ports of entry at King Shaka, Port of Durban, and Port of Richards Bay to ascertain the risk levels posed by bio-security threats coming from outside the country, DA spokesman Chris Pappas said.

"The inspections come after a number of bio-security related issues in recent months which the DA believes pose a serious risk to agriculture in our province, both directly and indirectly. More recently, disease such as anthrax as well as foot-and-mouth disease have shown how susceptible the agricultural sector is to outside threats," he said.

The DA had in the past exposed how animals, and people, moved freely across the country’s border with eSwatini on a daily basis. Any one of these animals or people could bring a disease that had the potential to cripple part of or all of KwaZulu-Natal’s agricultural sector. One only had to look at the issue of foot-and-mouth disease and its effects on the meat industry as an example.

"Bio-security as threats to the agricultural sector cannot be ignored. They have the potential to force thousands to lose their jobs and to undermine food security in the province. It is therefore critical that government prioritise the allocation of resources in order to stop the free flow of animals, plants, and people," Pappas said.

The issue should be prioritised, and proposed action included using drone technology to increase border patrol and increasing the 15 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) companies currently protecting South Africa’s borders to the required 22 and ensuring that they were properly resourced and trained.

Further, ensuring effective, efficient, and coordinated border security and control through increased policing capacity at border posts and along borders; increasing the deployment of SANDF personnel in areas where protected areas border neighbouring countries; and ensuring that sufficient resources, such as scanners, were placed at border posts to ensure that trucks were thoroughly searched.

The DA would submit its findings and solutions following the various site inspections to KwaZulu-Natal agriculture and rural development MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi for further investigation and response to the province’s ARD portfolio committee.

"The DA is committed to ensuring that KZN’s agricultural sector is protected against outside threats by lobbying the ANC-led provincial government to implement our practical solutions that aim to ensure that our agricultural sector is protected," Pappas said.

African News Agency (ANA)