NEWS & ANALYSIS

Action demanded during foot and mouth disease crisis – Noko Masipa

DA MP says Minister Thoko Didiza attempting to treat a symptom and not the cause

DA demands action during foot and mouth disease crisis

18 November 2019

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken note of Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza’s decision to place a moratorium on livestock auctions in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the North West and Limpopo, following a confirmed case of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in the latter. While the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) may be of the view that temporarily stop livestock auctions will in some way prevent the spread of this disease, the reality is that it is a poor attempt at treating a symptom of the crisis, rather than the disease itself.

The Department as well as its entities, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and its affiliate Onderstepoort Biological Product (OBP), which are mandated to aid farmers and the livestock industry in times of crisis – have failed to come to the party.

The Minister has remained mum on the DA’s request for a full investigation into the continued FMD outbreaks in the same provinces, written on 11 November 2019, as well as our request for an update on the ARC’s progress in finalizing the building of an FMD facility. These updates are particularly important following the ARC’s admission to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture that the R188 million grant it received to build the facility has now essentially gone missing meaning that South Africa will have to continue importing vaccines from Botswana.

The OBP, on the other hand, is an organization which is tasked, through legislation, to ensure the prevention and control of animal diseases that impact food security, human health and livelihoods in South Africa. The OBP’s responsibilities are meant to be met through the development and manufacturing of innovative and efficient products to ensure the affordability and accessibility of vaccines for livestock, through numerous distribution channels. Presently, the organization is not meeting this mandate with regard to the FMD outbreak.

The fact that the same serotype that was discovered during the Vhembe FMD outbreak has emerged in the Molemole cattle confirms the inability of these entities to effectively to work together to serve our livestock industry. Even more worrying is the fact that neither of these entities have ensured any form of post-outbreak management protocols, which include testing, vaccination and general management of red zone areas.

The DA will therefore write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture to immediately summon the Department, ARC and OBP to Parliament to come and present a comprehensive plan on how they will work to contain the new outbreak of FMD in Limpopo and how they will work to prevent any future outbreaks from happening. The Department and its entities need to do more in protecting farmers from these disease outbreaks, by ensuring they fulfill their mandates and use their grants in a manner that will protect our livestock industries, farmers and jobs - while growing our economy.

The DA will also call for a Parliamentary Debate to discuss the status of agricultural SOE support to farmers. If the ARC and OBP continue with their current trajectory, our food security and our economy are bound to suffer. The outbreak of FMD in January 2019, alone, resulted in a brief ban on South African wool and meat exports which cost the economy in excess of R10 billion.

It is for this reason that the DA’s Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Annette Steyn MP, will be visiting Limpopo on Wednesday 20th November 2019, to ascertain the severity of the situation we face.

Clearly, our agricultural sector deserves efficient and supportive mechanisms to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of all who work within our agricultural industries.

Issued by Noko Masipa, DA Member on the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development, 18 November 2019