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SA, neighbours must fight foot and mouth disease

Jan 13 2015 22:00

Pretoria - Collaborating in livestock management with neighbouring countries will help South Africa safeguard its foot and mouth disease (FMD)-free zone status, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Tuesday.

"We will not win this battle by guarding our borders. We need to invite our neighbouring countries so that we can debate the matter and maybe we can raise funding within international organisations," he told reporters in Pretoria.

"We will win the battle when the Zimbabweans also win the battle. We are feeling the pain, which we believe they are feeling as well. We need to have a common agenda in dealing with these issues."

FMD is a highly contagious disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, and pigs. The disease is found in buffalo, which act as carriers and thus show no symptoms, but infect other animals.

The previous FMD outbreak was detected in KwaZulu-Natal in 2011. This resulted in South Africa losing its Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organisation on Animal Health issued FMD-free zone status.

At the time, a ban was placed on exports of South African red meat and other cloven-hoofed animal products, costing the country R4bn a year in revenue.

In February last year, the OIE ban was lifted. The OIE is set to review the situation again this year, before making a final decision.

On Tuesday, Zokwana said South Africa was still reeling from the ban's economic effects.

"There are still some agricultural sectors that have not yet recovered from the impact of losing the FMD-free zone status. To date, South Africa is still negotiating market access of game meat to the European Union and beef to the Middle East countries. These were lucrative markets prior to South Africa losing its FMD-free zone status in 2011," Zokwana said.

He said South Africa was exploring new markets for its beef products.

"The more markets we can garner for our products, the more farmers will be able to produce and create jobs. We believe that through job creation we can lessen the evil of unemployment."

Zokwana said the buffalo population in the Kruger National Park and adjacent game reserves was infected with FMD. Areas in KwaZulu-Natal affected by the 2011 outbreak were still considered infected zones.

Protection zones had been established between these infected zones and areas without the infection. Among other measures, Zokwana said stricter border control would help protect South Africa.

"The measures include improvement of the structure and inspection of the border fence with Zimbabwe. They also include the improvement of the visibility of demarcation of the protection zones," he said.

Government hoped to vaccinate 500 000 cattle in designated areas across the country.

Although not deadly, FMD can cause severe production losses and, once introduced into susceptible animal herds, it becomes difficult and costly to eliminate.

FMD is so called because sick animals develop sores on their feet and mouths, and blisters filled with fluid.

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