Parliament - President Cyril Ramaphosa says the outbreak of listeriosis has had a considerable economic impact on the meat-processing industry.

In a written response to a parliamentary question from the DA’s Lindy Wilson, Ramaphosa said that according to the SA Meat Processing Association, there had been a fall in demand since the outbreak.

“The Department of Trade and Industry has undertaken a preliminary investigation into the economic and employment effects of the outbreak, which will be followed by a more in-depth study across the value chain.

“An interim evaluation suggests that the pork industry is the hardest hit, with a decrease in demand for processed meat of 75%. The demand for pork cold cuts decreased by 50% and profits by 40%,” he said.

Ramaphosa also said two processing plants and one abattoir had since closed down. “About 2000 jobs have been lost,” he said.

Traders that operate in the informal market selling ready-made or prepared food had been negatively affected, Ramaphosa said.

“While there was an initial decrease in sales by these vendors, many have since recovered by excluding processed meat or ensuring they did not procure products from the manufacturers identified as the centre of the outbreak,” he added.

Listeriosis has claimed scores of lives and an Enterprise Foods production facility in Limpopo was named as the source of the outbreak.

Asked about interventions to prevent further job losses, Ramaphosa said the Department of Trade and Industry, in collaboration with other departments, had been directed to undertake a full probe of the impact of the listeriosis outbreak and its further effects across the value chain.

He said companies in distress were advised to apply for assistance to the department under the agro-processing incentive and to the Industrial Development Corporation.

“Applications will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and support will be provided as and where appropriate.”

Ramaphosa said the government had put in place a process to establish a food safety agency and a relevant regulatory framework to ensure the requisite high levels of health and safety.

“The government has intervened to secure public safety and the longer-term sustainability of the sector, which must rest on an optimal health and safety regulatory framework and appropriate enforcement by the government,” he added.

The Star