What's the beef?

SA beef back to market

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Allow me first to welcome you to this press conference. Today I have a good story to tell!

The South African government, through the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), has been working with the International Scientific Commission for Animal Diseases, a specialist body of the World Organisation for Animal Health (the OIE), to push for the recovery of the foot and mouth disease free status for the country. This status was suspended in February      2011, and has been in place for the past three years, prohibiting the export of red meat. This ban has cost up to R3 billion annually in lost exports.

I am therefore delighted to confirm that the Scientific Commission has concluded that South Africa has now met all conditions of the OIE, and thus qualifies for the recovery of its status as a country where FMD vaccination is not practiced.

The OIE has published a statement on its website on the re-instatement of South Africa, which can be found at www.oie.int. Our own Department's statement will be on www.daff.gov.za.

While welcoming the positive development, I have now directed the Department to develop medium and long-term interventions to bolster our bio-security controls and ensure we maintain this status. I can indicate that achieving FMD status appears high on our sector priorities in the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP), which is in the final stages of consultation before going to Cabinet. I will be pleased to now revise that part of the Plan, to focus on maintaining the status.

Details of these plans, with time frames, can be provided by the Department, but will include a focus on increasing the efficiency of our extension services, the expansion of veterinary services through compulsory community service, and the deployment of the mobile veterinary clinics that we have recently acquired.

The Department will coordinate the compulsory Community Service for graduates, who will be closely mentored, and the first cohort will be in the field during 2015.
Twenty seven mobile clinics have also been procured and will be deployed to all provinces. These are fully equipped vehicles, including operating theatres, and will bring veterinary services to rural areas where they have not previously been.

I am pleased to also record that my Department is working closely with Provincial Departments to establish a livestock identification and traceability system in Foot and Mouth Disease areas. This will allow us to track and trace every animal in contaminated areas, with each animal receiving a uniquely coded, tamper-proof tag.

National Treasury has agreed to fund the construction of a state of the art veterinary Institute, under the auspices of the Agricultural Research Council (the ARC), at a cost of nearly R500 million. Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP), which is a state owned company, has also been supported with funds to strengthen its capacity. Construction work on a vaccine production facility is at an advanced stage, and once completed will significantly strengthen our disease management systems. This will allow for the production of much-needed vaccines, including for Foot and Mouth Disease, which we are currently importing from Botswana. We will not only be self-sufficient but will also share the African market with our neighbours, in accordance with the recommendations of SADC.

I am also pleased to note that young scientists are being recruited by the Agricultural Research Council (the ARC) to undertake post-graduate studies and research, which will build our capacity as a country to deal with FMD and other crop and animal health issues.

Ladies and gentlemen - these are just some of the interventions that the Department will be implementing to assure the OIE, the South African agriculture sector and the international community of our seriousness in dealing with Foot and Mouth Disease, and plant and animal health in general. We are also co-operating closely with the Department of Home Affairs in ensuring that our border controls are more effective, and that meat and other prohibited products are not posing a risk to our agricultural sector.

The Scientific Commission has agreed that an expert mission will be conducted in December this year, which will verify that the required measures have indeed been fully implemented. The FMD control areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal will be inspected. We look forward to receiving and hosting this mission, and will ensure that we deliver on our commitments.

 I wish to thank the Department - led by the Director General, Professor Edith Vries - for its dedication and hard work, provinces for their co-operation, stakeholders and farmers for working with us and achieving this major milestone. It has been a long and cold three years - but the future of our red meat industry beckons once again.

Thank you.


Palesa Mokomele

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