Task teams to soften blow of FMD outbreak
A steering committee and three task teams were established on 14 January 2019 to soften the blow of the recent foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the Vhembe district.
The steering committee and task teams (one dealing with communication, a technical task team and a trade task team) were established after a meeting between the government and industry role players to discuss the implications of the outbreak and to find solutions for South Africa’s international meat trade.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, emphasised that the outbreak was limited to the Sundani village in the Vhembe district. “Less than 50 head of cattle were affected in an area which carries around 10 000 to 15 000 head,” the Minister said. The area remains under quarantine and the affected cattle are vaccinated to prevent the disease from spreading. The Minister stressed that consumers could rest assured that FMD is not transmissible to human beings.
DAFF presented a report at the meeting highlighting the interventions the Department had made since the outbreak. The industry representatives expressed their appreciation for these measures. The Minister said that given its limited resources and technical skills, the government alone cannot win the battle. It needs the skills of industry role players.
The technical task team will oversee the eradication procedure in Vhembe while the communication task team will coordinate communication to all stakeholders. Dr Pieter Vervoort, chairman of the Animal Health Forum, who represents producer organisations on the Steering Committee, said expectations were that South Africa’s meat trading partners would close their borders after the outbreak was announced and that the OIE would temporarily put South Africa’s FMD-free status on hold.
“They of course have to obtain all the facts regarding the outbreak,” he said. ”The trade task team will communicate and negotiate with South Africa’s trading partners to convince them that South African meat is still safe for export purposes, e.g. that pork exports come from compartmentalised pig units, certified for export purposes,” he said. Dr Vervoort also pointed out that this task team would look beyond the FMD outbreak and also investigate market opportunities.
Dr Peter Evans, who heads consumer assurance at SAPPO, said he was visiting all SAPPO compartments to ensure that there is are no clinical cases of FMD in the compartments. At the same time, blood samples are being taken for serological testing at Onderstepoort. The results will be used to convince South Africa’s trading partners that our pork is safe. According to Dr Evans, the matter is receiving priority attention.