“We will never again be able to say that the Free State escaped foot and mouth disease (FMD). That status has now been lost forever and the economic consequences are enormous.”
This comment by Francois Wilken, president of Free State Agriculture (FSA), follows the announcement by Thembeni Nxangisa, the MEC for agriculture and rural development, about a confirmed positive test for FMD in the province.
Earlier this week, Food For Mzansi reported that the Free State government was investigating a possible outbreak of FMD following notifications of the suspicious movement of cattle from North West and Gauteng.
Two farms in Viljoenskroon were investigated while a third farm in Frankfort is still on a watch-list following the procurement of cattle from a speculator in Roodepoort, Johannesburg.
According to Wilken the confirmed FMD cases will have a massive negative economic impact. This is due to restrictions on the transport of animals (including at auctions) as well as international trade bans on livestock and livestock products that could follow.
“Free State Agriculture fully supports the powers given to veterinary services in terms of the Animal Diseases Act (35 of 1984) and is of the opinion that the culprits should be punished,” says Wilken.
Livestock farmers urged to play their part
Preventing FMD in the Free State should have been a simple exercise, believes FSA.
With recent outbreaks of the deadly disease being confined to Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, more stringent measures should have been put in place to prevent infection outside the controlled endemic area, FSA says in a statement.
“Due to deficient law enforcement, the Animal Health Act is ignored and leaves room for the transport and trade of infected animals from the infected areas. FSA welcomes the vaccination campaign in KwaZulu-Natal and hopes that all affected zones will also follow the route.”
Free State Agriculture furthermore appeals to livestock farmers not to move animals unnecessarily nor to buy uncertified livestock. It is crucial to remain fully within the law in terms of having permits for transport, auctions and sales.
FSA also appeals to the farmers in the northern Free State, especially around Viljoenskroon and Frankfort, to full cooperate with veterinarians and to be vigilant for any symptoms of FMD.
“If symptoms present, they should be reported to local veterinarians as soon as possible. Humans are also a major factor in the transmission of foot-and-mouth disease and FSA calls for strict biosecurity on all workers (restrict movement and allow work clothes to be disinfected) on the infected and possibly infected farms and neighbouring farms,” FSA says.
Both national and provincial governments are requested to deploy all resources at their disposal, including the traffic department, to strictly enforce the quarantine restrictions to prevent any further spread on the suspected and positively confirmed farms in the Free State.
FSA says it eagerly awaits the release and implementation of the biosecurity report’s recommendations which was written for the agriculture ministry.
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