Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

AFTER a three-year ban on the export of red meat because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, the international authorities have declared South Africa free of of the disease.

This comes after the red meat industry lost an estimated R4 billion annually after the ban came into effect in February 2011.

Yesterday, Edith Vries, director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the country’s suspension of being a zone free of the disease had been lifted and South Africa’s foot and mouth disease-free status reinstated.

Vries described this as “good news for which the government should be credited”.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OiE) in Paris had visited South Africa after the outbreak and laid down the steps the agriculture department would have to take to regain its foot and mouth disease-free status. On Friday the OiE wrote to Botlhe Modisane, chief director in charge of animal health in the department, to say it had considered the department’s report on corrective measures that had been implemented. The OiE’s scientific commission had concluded that South Africa now complied with the Terrestrial Animal Health Code.

“I am please to inform you that the status of its foot and mouth-free zone... is thus re-instated as of 14 February 2014 for the zone of South Africa... I congratulate you for the very

positive achievement on the foot and mouth situation in your country,” Dr Bernard Vallat wrote.

Vallat said a team of experts from the OiE would visit South Africa in December to check that the measures the department had taken to combat the disease had been fully implemented in the foot and mouth control area of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

Gerhard Schutte, chief executive of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, said: “This is the best news I’ve had in many years. It’s such good news not only for the red meat industry, but for the stud industry, the wool and milk industry. All of them have had problems because of losing the foot and mouth-free status. The wool industry had great problems trying to get their wool into China... And the stud animals, mainly cattle but sheep too, they can now go to neighbouring countries. ”