Yesterday’s Gazette, imposing a restriction on the movement of cattle nationally for 21 days, except under a red cross permit for slaughter at a registered Abattoir, is a knee jerk and irrational measure taken by the Minister to be seen to be doing something. The reality is that Government Veterinary Services have failed dismally in getting the latest Foot and Mouth (FMD) spread under control.
Currently the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and Western Cape have no reported cases of FMD. Agri Eastern Cape requested months ago that control measures be put in place at the Provincial borders to prevent the spread, while outbreaks within other affected areas were focussed on. This request later resulted in a Directive being issued by Dr Rozani, Acting Chief Director of Veterinary Services, on the 2nd of August 2022. This Directive required that any animal being moved into the Eastern Cape should be done so under a movement permit issued by a State Veterinarian. This Directive, which was not enforced by means of roadblocks at provincial entry points – apparently due to costs – was welcomed, as it would have allowed movement and economic activity within the Province to at least continue while limiting the risk of the disease spreading. This Directive was later withdrawn on the 15th of August 2022 to make way for the National Control Measure.
It is clear that those who advised the Minister on this matter have no concept of the realities at ground level. Failing to contain FMD within the infected zones and having outbreaks within the previously FMD free zones by means of movement bans, it cannot now, be understood how extending these movement restrictions for 21 days to the whole country will assist.
Unless physical movement control points are set up, all that is going to happen is that law abiding producers who are not the problem, will probably adhere to the control measures, while those producers, speculators, and agents who are the problem will just continue movement without sanction.
Meat prices to the consumers within the EC are going to rise and normal market forces will be disrupted and most certainly taken advantage of by some within the industry. In its current form the national ban will only aid in the continued destruction of the economy and severely impact the smaller role players within the value chain.
The processes allowed to move animals under a red cross permit for slaughter, are impractical, costly and in fact, cannot be effectively complied with given the limited number of private and state veterinarians. These measures are going to have an impact on animal welfare, such as emergency slaughters, the essential transport of dairy animals from run-off farms to milking farms and the transport of dairy calves to growing out facilities.
In-spite of the implementation of bio-security measures at auction facilities, sales cannot go ahead, even with the veterinary screening of animals. This is a devastating blow for producers and emerging farmers.
Agri Eastern Cape has been calling on Government and Industry role-players for a number of years to effectively police the infected zones and implement a compulsory national animal traceability system. One can only question the motives behind the reasons why this has not happened.
It is further not understood why, formal recognised structures such Agri Eastern Cape, the EC Animal Health Forum and the Provincial Red Meat Organization, had not been consulted for input before such a drastic measure, affecting the Eastern Cape, was taken.
Agri Eastern Cape is calling on the Minister to rescind this irrational Gazette, and rather impose restrictions and enforce inter-provincial movement control and focus attention in the affected areas. More importantly, Government needs to start consulting urgently with all industry role players on meaningful, implementable, and practical measures to get FMD under control.