South Africa’s fight against outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in various parts of the country is starting to show positive results.
The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development confirms to Food For Mzansi that, although the spread is still ongoing in some areas, outbreaks are abating in other provinces.
The spokesperson for the department, Reggie Ngcobo, says that spread was successfully prevented from auctions and three farms in the Free State and Gauteng. The affected farms were cleared of the disease since then. “These cases will be officially closed as soon as disinfection processes as well as surveillance have been concluded.”
The country has seen a worrying FMD outbreak trend in five of its provinces in recent months, and KwaZulu-Natal remains of great concern. Five new cases have been identified in the past two weeks.
This brings the total number of affected dip tanks to 66 since the start of the outbreak in May 2021, in the district municipalities of Zululand, UMkhanyakude, King Cetshwayo, iLembe and eThekwini.
The department reports that vaccination in the province is ongoing with more than 190 000 animals having been vaccinated since the start of an intensified vaccination campaign in mid-March this year.
Outbreaks in buffalos, however, are posing a serious challenges in the fight against FMD in the province. This, as buffalo with antibodies against FMD were identified in the Hluhluwe uMfolozi Park.
Animal disease experts are alarmed as buffalos become permanent carriers of the disease without showing clinical signs. “The department held a meeting with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and discussed options in order to determine the best way forward. The park is undergoing serological surveillance to determine the status of the rest of the buffalos within the park,” says Ngcobo.
Enforcing individual farm quarantines
Meanwhile, in the past two weeks, outbreaks in North West have increased to 14, and affected farms and adjacent properties have been under quarantine since the start of these outbreaks. Cattle on the affected properties are also undergoing vaccination to decrease the viral load.
Ngcobo says the properties will be “depopulated” in a controlled manner as soon as practical routes to do so have been identified.
In Limpopo, the first round of vaccinations in the Thulamela area was completed at the end of May. This, after a total of eight positive locations had been identified in the area since the disease was found in April 2022.
Further surveillance of dip tanks and farms in the disease management area is continuing. “The outbreaks in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal are present in areas where it is difficult to enforce individual farm quarantine, therefore disease management areas were declared,” says the department.
Meanwhile, agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo said that uncertainty around meat prices can be directly linked to the FMD outbreak.
Despite a broad uptick in all food prices in South Africa, meat remains the one essential product whose price trend remains uncertain. “The recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease have led to the temporary closure of some key export markets for the red meat industry, thus adding downward pressure on prices.
“Conversely, there are fears of a potential increase in poultry product prices, which could lessen the benefit of softer red meat prices,” Sihlobo said.
All farmers and owners of livestock are reminded to safeguard themselves by applying biosecurity measures on their farms and only buy healthy animals from well-known and reputable sources.
Farms and feedlots are also advised to isolate new animals before introduction into the resident herds.
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