The Democratic Alliance welcomes the R500 million allocation to Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, which will go towards the refurbishment of its facilities, among other things.
OBP - which is commissioned by the government to manufacture and distribute vaccines - has not received any funding from the state since 2001.
It has since lost the confidence of the agriculture community in its capacity to provide reliable and effective vaccines, in particular during the outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in 2010, which resulted in significant stock and revenue losses because OBP could not produce an effective vaccine.
The Democratic Alliance has made constant calls for greater investment into OBP by the agriculture department. We are therefore pleased at this step in the right direction, which will help to safeguard the agriculture sector against job losses that would result if revenues continue to drop.
There are, however, a number of additional concerns that need to be addressed urgently in order to protect livestock against future outbreaks of disease:
The capacity of the research unit within the entity must be increased so that it can keep up with its competitors and provide effective vaccines to combat new and existing disease strains.
The department needs to make available for public assessment a report by the World Organisation for Animal Health that outlines the state of animal health and safety in the country.
A report commissioned by OBP itself on the Rift Valley Fever outbreak of 2010 needs to be made available as well.
If stakeholders are to regain confidence in OBP, the agriculture department needs to provide the necessary support and must make available any information that will help to protect the industry, and the jobs of the thousands of people who depend on it for their livelihood.
Annette Steyn, Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries