A health officer checks a cattle in a farm as a preventive measure against foot-and-mouth disease. Moon Yo-han/News1 via REUTERS.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said on Thursday that there had been no new clinical cases of foot and mouth disease.

"Since the last positive location was reported on 04 February 2019, five weeks ago, there had been no new clinical cases of foot and mouth disease or serologically positive test results in the epidemiological groups surveyed. Roughly 13,500 cattle distributed across 27 diptanks have been vaccinated and identified as vaccinated in the former foot and mouth disease-free area since 14 January 2019," spokesperson Rincert Moremi said in a statement.

"On 7 January this year the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries confirmed and reported an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the high surveillance area of the foot and mouth disease-free zone in Limpopo, adjacent to the protection zone. Subsequently, South Africa lost its World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recognised foot and mouth disease-free zone without vaccination status."

The department said valuable information was solicited from more than 400 local livestock owners across 16 rural villages interviewed during February and they were assessing the obtained information to strategise a way forward to regain the foot and mouth disease-free zone status for the country. 

"The next steps have to be considered, carefully taking into account timelines and available resources. The department appreciates the technical advice from world-renowned experts and the practical guidance from the private sector that informs their plan of action."

Moremi said the continuation of trade in safe commodities had been prioritised. 

"The department successfully negotiated the revision of veterinary health certificates for beef to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Mozambique, Qatar, Swaziland and the United Arab Emirates. Trade in pork from foot and mouth disease-free pig compartments has been re-opened to Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia (partially), Seychelles and Swaziland."

The department said negotiations with Namibia (for beef) and Botswana (for pork) were still underway. 

"The markets for dairy products have largely been restored. Some markets for the export of hides, skins and wool are still affected and robust negotiations are underway, particularly for products that have been processed to ensure the destruction of the foot and mouth virus."

Moremi said Minister Senzeni Zokwana had met with the Chinese Ambassador to discuss the continuation of trade and acceptance of South Africa’s safe commodities. 

"Stricter proceedings to ensure necessary assurance for future trading have been affirmed."

The department said they had considered commodities that had been processed to inactivate the foot and mouth disease virus according to the internationally accepted requirements of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code as safe. 

"The full list is available on request. However, each importing country still retains the right to determine its appropriate level of protection and it must not be assumed that export markets for safe commodities are automatically open."

African News Agency (ANA)