Cape Town — After three-years of a costly ban on South African red meat, the country can now resume its exports of beef to European markets, it was confirmed on Wednesday.
This follows a decision by the International Animal Health Organisation (OIE) to declare South Africa free of foot-and-mouth disease. But authorities said they would continue to ensure that the required measures were fully implemented in the disease control areas of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
"While welcoming the decision, I have directed the department to develop medium and long term interventions to bolster our bio-security controls and ensure we maintain this status," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told reporters at a briefing in Cape Town.
She said the ban, which became effective from February 2011, had cost South Africa and the industry up to R3 billion annually in lost exports.
Agriculture remains crucial to South Africa's economic growth and the country's New Growth Path identifies the sector as one of the key job drivers due to its high job creation potential.
Joemat-Pettersson today announced a series of measures to maintain South Africa's foot-and-mouth disease free status.
The department will, among other things, coordinate the compulsory community service of graduates, who will be closely monitored, and the first group will be on the field during 2015. Up to 27 mobile clinics have been supplied to several provinces. These are fully equipped vehicles fitted with operating theatres and will bring veterinary services to rural areas.
Joemat-Pettersson said the department was also working with provinces to establish a livestock identification and traceability system in foot-and-mouth disease areas.
"This will allow us to track and trace every animal in contaminated areas with each animal receiving a uniquely coded, tamper-proof tag," the minister said.
She said young scientist were being recruited by the Agriculture Research Council to undertake post graduate studies and research, which will build the country's capacity to deal with foot-and-mouth disease.
National Treasury has also agreed to fund the construction of a veterinary institute at a cost of R500 million.
Foot-and-mouth disease is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals like cows.
The disease is prone in the Kruger National Park because of the buffalos which are permanently infected.