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Ban on livestock auctions lifted

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“I want to reassure the nation that this decision was not taken lightly and was implemented as a disease control measure.”

THE GOVERNMENT has lifted its ban on public auctions of livestock which was put in place after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease late last year.

However, there will be stringent conditions for auctions when they resume, and they will be conducted only by agents registered with the Agriculture Produce Agents Council.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza announced yesterday that the blanket ban on gatherings of animals had been lifted following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease three months ago in the Molemole district in Limpopo. “There are preconditions for the resumption of auctions.

Auctions will only be conducted under stringent conditions. All livestock agents must be registered with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC),” Didiza stated.

The minister stated that agents already registered with APAC could proceed with auctions.

“All APAC certificates issued prior to March 2, 2018 have lapsed and renewal should be done on or before March 30, 2020. I therefore encourage all livestock and game traders to contact the APAC for re-registration prior to resuming with their businesses.”

The department emphasised further that the lifting of the temporary ban on gatherings of animals was not an implication that such activities were safe. “All auctioneers are advised to familiarise themselves with their implementing measures to prevent their animals from becoming infected.”

These include: not moving high-risk animals, such as animals showing signs of disease, animals from unknown origin or animals originating from known infected areas; only buying animals from known and proven sources; insisting that buyers be supplied with a veterinary health declaration before animals are brought onto their farms; and always placing new arrivals in isolation until you are satisfied with their health status.

Didiza stated that she was aware of the social and economic impact that the ban had on livestock owners, traders and the general sector stakeholders.

“I want to reassure the nation that this decision was not taken lightly and was implemented as a disease control measure.”

Veterinary Services will meanwhile continue to collaborate with affected farmers to determine the best way forward to resolve the outbreaks on the infected farms, she stated.

“The slaughter of cattle at specifically designated abattoirs has started, with additional measures to prevent any disease spread through materials such as heads, feet and offal.”

The minister also stated that while the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the free zone could not be declared as over yet, it appeared that the initial spread of the disease has been successfully contained.

“The outbreak highlighted a number of areas which need urgent and close collaboration between livestock keepers and the government. A team, comprising of industry stakeholders and the FMD subject matter specialists, has already started working on a strategy for the better management of FMD in the controlled area. These measures focus on sustainability of the controlled area and strengthening measures that are already in place.

“The outbreak has also highlighted the importance of individual animal identification and traceability, especially with continuous buying and selling of animals. The work on the Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS-SA) is at an advanced stage and the implementation of this system is inevitable for better management of diseases in the country. This system should also be able to give us better chances at export market access for our commodities.”

The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) yesterday welcomed the lifting of the ban.

Tammy Breedt, FF+ spokesperson for agriculture, said that since the announcement was made that there had been an outbreak of the disease in 2019, the party had called on the department to identify regions within the provinces that were fit for auctions to take place to ensure that the farmers and related economies of these provinces were not adversely affected.

“South Africa’s agricultural sector is already heavily burdened with the uncertainty of land expropriation without compensation, the severe drought that has affected the sector for years and now most recently the ban on auctions due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.”

He added that the ban had led to a serious economic loss for the agricultural sector, which was estimated to amount to more than R10 billion. “It is a staggering loss seeing as the livestock auction industry’s turnover amounts to approximately R81 billion annually.”

Breedt pointed out further that the department still has a serious shortage of veterinarians.

“The department must appoint more veterinarians and improve their system as soon as possible to nip any future outbreaks in the bud. It must make sure that the country’s red zones and borders are secured to prevent healthy animals from coming into contact and being infected by sick animals.”

The party added that it would hold the department accountable to ensure that these measures are adhered to on all levels and in all forms (commercial and subsistence) of agriculture.

“It is imperative for the department to take precautionary measures and act proactively when it comes to diseases, like foot-and-mouth disease, and not reactively as in this case.”