Animal health at a crossroads

The report from the Biosecurity Task Team on the state of animal health in South Africa tempts a sense of hopelessness about industry efforts to effectively manages diseases. The writing is on the wall: The capacity of state veterinarian services is irrecoverable, and its structures of delegating authority do not fit the current operating environment. Yet, its release should be interpreted as a signal of equal frustration and acknowledgement that we are at a hard-hitting crossroads. This should be met with sustained dialogue and intentional partnerships.

In the coming months, the ongoing dialogue should initiate a pending shift in the future roles and responsibilities to hold the social and economic equilibrium required to operate sustainably in agriculture. Over the years, SAPPO has invested years of social and relationship capital in state officials. Amid the current tensions, we must sustain our relationships. Yes, pushing for changes to regulations is worth pursuing, but will not yield the short- to medium-term intervention we require. The Directorate of Animal Health will have to come to the table and outline clear, pragmatic principles for operations based on their realistic future capacity – not the over-proportionate role tied to the regulations of yesteryear.

As industry bodies and farmers, we should rise to the occasion of defining a new role in regulating our own behaviour and conduct. SAPPO, through Pork 360, luckily has such a vehicle in place. We should use the current crisis as a time to scope out the future role the industry, private veterinarians, and animal health practitioners could play in addressing risks and collocation with state officials. Admittingly, it will take a fair amount of trust-building on both sides.

The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.