South Africa: 'Foot-and-Mouth Disease Won't Affect Namibia'

Photo: New Era
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Namibia's Meat Board said the current foot-and-mouth outbreak in the Limpopo province of South Africa will not affect Namibia because most meat products In Namibia come from the local market.

Yesterday, the agriculture ministry suspended imports of cloven-hoofed animals and all meat products from South Africa as a preventative measure.

Cloven-hoofed animals include cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and antelope.

The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak was detected in the Vhembe district on Tuesday. The Vhembe district is at the borders of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, close to the Kruger National Park.

The virus, which affects domesticated and wild animals, develops into different strains, making it challenging to vaccinate.

Acting chief veterinary officer Albertina Shilongo, who announced the suspension, said all import and transit permits in place currently have been recalled until further notice, and importers have been urged to contact the veterinary import and export office on 061 303 150 for details.

"The ministry would, therefore, like to inform importers and the general public of the immediate suspension of the import and in-transit movements of cloven-hoofed animals and their products from South Africa," the notification read.

Shilongo said the disease was very contagious, with common clinical symptoms such as salivation, animals not grazing, limping, blisters, and ulcers of the tongue, mouth, gums, udder and on animal feet.

The meat board trade manager, Goliath Tujendapi, yesterday said the outbreak was not expected to cause economic worries locally if it is short-lived.

"We do not expect it to affect the local economy, as about 70% or more meat products consumed in the country comes from the local market. The effects will only be felt if it continues for long," he said.

The economically affected will mainly be the retail sector that directly import meat products from South Africa, he said, adding that for those, the shelves are likely to be empty.

Tujendapi, however, warned that, should South Africa also restrict imports from Namibia, then that will affect local exporters badly.

The spokesperson for the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Khaye Nkwanyana, told South African media on Tuesday that a team of experts from the department and the Limpopo veterinary services were "on the ground conducting further investigations to verify the results and determine the extent of the outbreak.

"Samples were collected during a disease investigation after reports of cattle with lameness were received," he was quoted as saying.

"The control measures will be determined by the findings of this investigation."

Nkwanyana added: "The matter was reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health on Monday. As a result of this development, the World Organisation for Animal Health-recognised foot-and-mouth-free status of South Africa is temporarily suspended.

"Consequently, any exports where FMD-free zone attestation is required cannot be certified."

In 2016, Botswana authorities shot 400 cattle which had crossed the border from Zimbabwe, saying its exports to the European Union were "vitally important".

Across the Limpopo Valley in Zimbabwe, regular outbreaks have kept authorities on their toes.

In 2015, 120 000 animals in the southern border area of Zimbabwe had to be vaccinated at least twice to bring outbreaks in the area under control.

The South African government also strengthened 165km of fencing, and increased patrols along the border.

Yesterday, Nkwanyana said the Vhembe district was under quarantine, with no movement of animals or animal products allowed.

"Farmers further away from the outbreak are cautioned to observe biosecurity measures - not to allow any new animals into their herds - and to minimise the movement of their herds to other farms." - Additional information by The Witness.

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