The government has been urged to gazette – or declare as a crisis – the latest Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in Limpopo as a first step to curbing the risk of its spreading to other parts of the country at great economic cost.
Gazetting the outbreak would ‘unlock the funding and resources needed to empower the agricultural sector to manage this outbreak, and to ensure that it does not become a disaster across every single province’, said Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Noko Masipa.
Masipa, who is a member of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, said that an estimated 20 000 head of cattle had been affected at five commercial farms in Limpopo.
But he warned that the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform’s ‘reluctance to effectively deal with this outbreak has caused large-scale confusion and havoc, especially in light of its decision to impose a moratorium on livestock auctions in unaffected provinces such as Mpumalanga, Gauteng and North West’.
FMD is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact. The disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.
Masipa said: ‘Government simply cannot afford to sit on its hands as South Africa’s livestock industry becomes increasingly vulnerable to the sporadic outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Reports today allege that even President Cyril Ramaphosa himself has had to retrench 20 workers on his farm, as a result of FMD. The severity of this outbreak needs to be taken seriously and control measures need to be put in place with additional support, resources and funding.’
He said the last FMD outbreak in January this year ‘resulted in a brief ban on South African wool and meat exports which cost the economy in excess of R10 billion’.
‘Our economy simply cannot afford this loss in revenue given its vulnerable state,’ he said.
Masipa said funding and resources were need to ‘empower officials, police and the relevant agricultural personnel to better monitor procedures relating to the transport of animals in affected zones and provinces. With increased resources, we can ensure that infected animals in FMD outbreak zones aren’t moved into non-affected zones.’