With foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) cases skyrocketing in Mzansi, Dr Peter Oberem, chief executive at Afrivet, breaks down how the sector can better manage these outbreaks currently rampant in five provinces.
Joining us on this week’s Farmer’s Inside Track, Oberem kicks off by explaining the origin of FMD. He points out that the disease evolved thousands of years ago and was first detected in buffalo.
“The virus and the buffalo evolved together for quite a long time and have hence adapted to each other. So the buffalo nowadays show no symptoms whatsoever. They just carry the disease,” Oberem explains.
Looking at it historically, the outbreaks started in the early 1900s. However, there were slow increases in number. The reason why prior to 1930 there were no foot-and-mouth outbreaks, is because at the end of the 19th century – in the 1890s – there was a very severe epidemic of rinderpest, Oberem says.
“It came down from the north and spread down [the] south until eventually in the 1900s it got to Cape Town.”
According to Oberem, rinderpest affects the ruminants including the buffalo. The buffalo population was nearly eliminated, he recalls, together with hunting and anything else that went with it.
“So, there were very low numbers of buffalo, it was little contact between cattle and buffalo.”
Furthermore, he says that the loss of international FMD free status has severely impacted South Africa’s agricultural industry. “To give you an example, we lost our accreditation as being FMD free in the FMD free zones. Also [about] 700 game harvesters lost their jobs and until today they don’t have their jobs back,” he explains.
“70% of our wool clip is sold to China and [the country] for a period refused to accept wool from South Africa. You can imagine if suddenly, 70% of our market for our really good product just disappears. It’s an absolute disaster.”
Further in the podcast, Oberem unpacks:
- The impact on meat exports;
- Avoiding future outbreaks, and more.
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