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SA’s cattle industry commends Botswana for its swift action on suspected foot-and-mouth disease outbreak

SA’s cattle industry commends Botswana for its swift action on suspected foot-and-mouth disease outbreak
(Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Botswana has halted the movement of cloven hoof animals and suspended the export of cloven hoof animals, beef, fresh meat and raw animal products after a suspected outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the country.

South Africa’s red meat and livestock industry has congratulated Botswana on its swift response to a suspected foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the country.

Botswana’s director of veterinary services, Dr Kefentse Motshegwa, last week informed farmers and stakeholders that a movement standstill for all cloven hoof animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, antelope etc) had been imposed.

Motshegwa said movement permits would not be issued until further notice.

“All issued permits have been cancelled and should be considered invalid. Slaughter is temporarily suspended, abattoirs and slaughter slabs may slaughter animals that are already in the lairages but may not admit any more animals until further notice,” said Motshegwa.

Motshegwa said the export of cloven hoof animals, beef, fresh meat and raw animal products had been suspended. “This movement restriction facilitates disease investigation and will be lifted once investigations are concluded,” he said.

Louw van Reenen, the spokesperson for the Red Meat and Livestock Primary Cluster and CEO of Beefmaster Group, said: “We congratulate the government of Botswana for its swift action. This decisive intervention was needed, but lacking, four years ago when FMD was first identified in South Africa, which is why the problem is so pervasive. There is much to learn from this commendable and bold move by our neighbour.”  

More than a week ago, the South African government announced the temporary suspension of the movement of cattle in the country to curb the rampant spread of FMD. 

“Industry players say that the action was necessary, albeit a case of too little too late. The industry has been wanting the country to prioritise FMD with urgency since its outbreak. We have got to a stage where the 21-day restriction on the movement of cattle is necessary,” said Van Reenen.

He said that the battle to get ahead of FMD required industry and government participation, yet the lack of industry consultations in the lead-up to the announcement had left the industry with much uncertainty.  

“We have always asked that government acknowledges the industry as a critical roleplayer in the combatting of this disease to effectively manage FMD. Having said that, we are encouraged by positive unintended consequences since the restrictions have been in place.

“Traceability and biosecurity are back in the spotlight and stakeholders are starting to see value in it to prevent and manage the risk of large-scale disease outbreaks.”   

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Van Reenen said the recently gazetted regulation allows for the movement of cattle to a registered abattoir for slaughtering purposes only if strict criteria are met, including having a sign-off from a private veterinarian that the cattle being transported are clinically healthy. 

“Processing facilities also need to have a red cross [movement] permit from a state veterinarian before animals are allowed to be transported for slaughter. We are seeing excellent cooperation by government in fast-tracking the issuing of red cross permits. It is taking seriously our obligation to consumers to ensure the continuous supply of beef,” he said.

He said if the restrictions are extended beyond the 21-day limit, the risk of a decline in the supply of beef to consumers becomes high.  

“Everyone is impacted by the restrictions, including meat processing facilities, which, together with the feedlots, are not allowed to buy cattle for stock purposes. The longer the ban continues, the more risk it carries to all who operate in the sector.”  

Van Reenen added that the way industry and government had cooperated on this issue in the last week served as a great example of what is possible.   

“Beef … is expected to add more than R12-billion to South Africa’s agricultural GDP per annum by 2030. FMD not only threatens its viability, but also the country’s export markets.

“The beef industry has been focused on opening up new markets for our products over the last few years. We cannot afford to lose these export markets, as well as potential new ones, because of the risk of FMD.

“We strongly urge all stakeholders to cooperate in protecting our industry, not become complacent, and to act responsibly in ensuring FMD is brought under control,” said Van Reenen.

The secretary of the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture, Moreri Moesi, in a statement last week said the 2022 National Agricultural Show had been postponed indefinitely.

“This comes after the recent suspension of movement for all cloven-hoofed animals that has been imposed due to suspected FMD cases in the Disease Control Zone 6b. The ministry regrets any inconvenience this might have caused. An update on the new development will be communicated in due course,” read the statement. DM/OBP

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