Concern mounts over ongoing outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in SA

The Red Meat Producers Organisation is urging farmers to act responsibly and take precautionary measures against foot-and-mouth disease. Picture: Steven Naidoo/Independent Newspapers

The Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) on Friday warned concern is mounting among red meat primary producers about foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the infectious virus that is once again rearing its head in various parts of South Africa.

The service organisation’s chief executive Frikkie Maré said the most recently-reported cases of FMD were in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

“We would like to provide the following information: FMD is a state-controlled disease and therefore neither the RPO nor any other private organisation has the mandate to intervene with the processes on the reporting of, or control over the situation, unless instructed by government,” he said.

“The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development reported on the most recent FMD cases on May 2, 2024 and producers must familiarise themselves with the current situation.”

The RPO said the department placed farms where the cases of the disease were found under quarantine, as well as neighbouring farms and linked locations.

“While it seemed as if the reported cases in the Free State and Eastern Cape were isolated incidents, with no positive tracing to date, the KwaZulu-Natal cases were considered as a new outbreak and reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).”

Maré said given that sporadic positive cases of FMD kept on occurring, producers had to ensure they protected their farms from the virus and acted responsibly.

He said if farms were making use of contracted transport for the animals, they should ensure the contractor cleaned and sanitised the vehicle before any loading of new animals took place.

Industry stakeholders had been urged to report any suspicious movement of animals.

The RPO said it was committed to help resolve the FMD situation and – with the rest of the primary industry, through the Red Meat Industry Service (RMIS) – was working closely with the department to find solutions and assist with responsible situational reporting.

According to the RMIS, the red meat value chain has a significant impact on the economy.

The red meat sector employs more than 600 000 people in South Africa and contributes over R70 billion to the country’s economy each year.

The red meat value chain has faced various challenges in recent years, including increasing competition from other protein sources; changing consumer preferences; and animal health issues, such as FMD.

Last month, the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) said the past two years had presented major challenges for the South African livestock industry. The spread of FMD and higher feed costs were the two major factors that weighed on the business.

As farmers, together with the various feedlots and government worked to control the spread of FMD, the impact on farming business revenues was deepening as they suddenly had to limit the movement of animals, and various export markets were temporarily closed.

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