NWGA on availability of animal vaccines in country, capacity building of local sheep shearers & development programme for small-scale wool farmers

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

24 February 2015
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) said wool sheep farming was a lucrative opportunity for rural development in Eastern Cape. Wool was the biggest commodity in South Africa, as it had a turnover of about R50 billion at the consumer level and a 60:40 ratio between formal and informal production in South Africa, which showed the importance of the industry. South Africa could export wool to anywhere in the world. NWGA, being on the production side, had a responsibility to consumers for food safety. Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) played a very important role in the quality of wool in South Africa, hence the need to comply with security measures that could affect consumers.

OBP was an important entity not only to DAFF, but to farmers as well, as it provided vaccines that were not produced by any other facility. Therefore, if its vaccine production was not going well it would have a wide-ranging effect. Issues to be ironed out included the production of vaccines such as Bluetongue and Brucellosis S16, as there had been a struggle to get the right quantity of these vaccines at the right time for a few years. There had been several engagements with the entity on how to get to a point where the parties were satisfied, but it seemed the issue was beyond OBP. Communication was also an issue in terms of updating the farmers on vaccine availability, and this needed to be addressed.

Members felt there was a need for the NWGA to broaden its footprint outside the Eastern Province, and sought clarity on the status of its Memorandum of Understanding with the DAFF. They called for increased training for emerging small-scale wool farmers, and were told the Association planned to train 450 shearers in 2015.

The Horse Racing Association briefed the Committee on why the Association should be allowed to continue and the challenges it faced. African Horse Sickness (AHS) was a disease prevalent in South African horses, and this had reduced the chances of exporting horses to other countries from South Africa. The hosting of the Olympic Games would never be considered because of AHS. Vaccines were very important in the combat of horse diseases, as was the use of a diagnostic test tool to determine the presence of the diseases.

The Association was asked why exports were banned if the risk was said to be minimal, and the Committee was told that the diagnostic test was a DNA-based molecular test that gave a rapid result. The European Union (EU) had the resources to check whether countries could validate their claims that animals were vaccinated, so it was convenient for countries to hide behind the long protocol made by the EU. South Africa had come up with this diagnostic tool, which needed to be absorbed into the EU manual. It was the first diagnostic tool in the world that was good enough, as it gave consistent and very accurate test results which could be certified with absolute certainty.

The DAFF briefed the Committee on the Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) mission to South Africa in 2014 to evaluate controls for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The aim of the mission had been to assess the implementation and compliance with the relevant provisions of the Terrestrial Code, to ensure the maintenance of FMD free status and in the case of South Africa, to assess the situation following the suspension of its FMD free status in 2011. Challenges which had been identified during the OIE’s 2013 mission to South Africa had been followed up on, and many areas of progress were reported. The Committee expressed concern on the under reporting of disease events by the Department to OIE.

The Committee was also updated on the Compulsory Community Service (CCS) regulations, in terms of the Veterinary and Para-veterinary Amendment Act of 2012, which were drafted and gazetted during 2013. The main challenge in finalising the CCS regulations was that Section 20A(1) of the Act mandated that any person registering for the first time for veterinary and para-veterinary must perform CCS from commencement of the Act. The DAFF’s intention was a phased-in approach, starting with veterinarians and proceeding to the para-veterinary professionals in later years. Section 20A (3) provided for the Minister to prescribe the circumstances under which persons may be exempted from CCS.

The DAFF, the South Africa Veterinary Council and state law advisers who had drafted the principal Act, met on 30 January 2015 to explore the implications of utilizing Section 20A(3) of the new Act as a method of averting the legal shortcomings, without amending the principal Act. Following the meeting, the state law advisors opted to re-look at both the proposed regulations and the implications of Section 20A(3) with regard to exemptions. There had been feedback on 20 February 2015 on the interpretation of Section 20A (3). The DAFF’s legal services, together with the technical directorate concerned, were still reviewing the latest legal opinion.

Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) briefed the Committee on the importance of vaccines, which were a preventive measure and were important to the success of primary healthcare. Veterinary vaccines were essential for protection of national herds, safe and efficient food production, control of emerging, re-emerging and exotic diseases of animals and people, reduction of transmission of most livestock diseases, control and prevention against most zoonotic diseases such as rabies, influenza, and brucellosis, and contributed to a reduction in usage of antibiotics.

The Committee was told about key challenges facing OBP in vaccine production:

* Infrastructure: full plants needed to be upgraded, and new equipment was needed to increase yield.

* Current equipment was becoming redundant -- new processes and technology needed to be cost effective.

* Outdated processes with low yields were not competitive, hence the need for a better process flow and skilled personnel.

* The high cost of production disadvantaged farmers. There was no pilot plant for R&D, hence the need for proper infrastructure that was Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliant.

OBP was currently undergoing recapitalization. Treasury had provided funding -- approximately R492 million -- for three years for this project, starting in 2012/13. The project consisted of three components: upgrade and modernization of the infrastructure and equipment, improving production processes, and training of staff. OBP would become efficient and serve both local and international markets. There would be less disruption in production, with affordable products, especially for small holder farmers. Better technology was being introduced. However, changing from old to new processes had its own inherent risks, and availability of products had been affected.

A Member disputed claims that all things had been done to address the problems of vaccine availability, as OBP had not kept to their promises. OBP responded that Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine had been sourced from Botswana, as there had been a need for OBP to revamp its production process when its vaccines were getting contaminated, in order to address the problem. FMD was a transmissible disease and the biosecurity was very high, so OBP could not combine the production of FMD vaccines with other vaccines.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by Chairperson

The Chairperson welcomed all the delegates from the DAFF and various entities represented. The meeting had been convened in order to understand the challenges faced by these entities and how the Portfolio Committee could assist in mitigating them. The Committee had had interaction with some associations in December, including with the Horse Racing Association on the challenges of availability of vaccines. The previous Committee had had an interaction with the National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) and intervention had taken place, hence this meeting was important to measure how much had been achieved since the agreement reached with the previous Committee.

Apologies were read from the Deputy Minister, who was out of the country, and the Onderspoort Biological Products (OBP) CEO, who was also out of the country.

Members of the Portfolio Committee were introduced by the Chairperson. The Director General of DAFF introduced the delegates from the Department, and the Chairman of the National Wool Growers Association of South Africa also introduced his team.

Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) informed the house that Ms T Gasebongwe-Tongwane (ANC) was indisposed.

The Chairperson said that her apology would be noted.

Briefing by National Wool Growers’ Association (NWGA) of South Africa

Mr Harry Prinsloo: Chairman, NWGA, gave a brief introduction on the importance of this meeting. Wool was the biggest commodity in South Africa, as it had a turnover of about R50 billion at the consumer level and a 60:40 ratio between formal and informal production in South Africa, which showed the importance of the industry. South Africa could export wool to anywhere in the world. NWGA, being on the production side, had a responsibility to consumers for food safety, as Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) played a very important role in the quality of wool in South Africa, hence the need to comply with security measures that could affect consumers. The importance of the meeting could not be underestimated, hence the need for NWGA as manufacturers and the Portfolio Committee to reach an agreement as to how to resolve the issues involving OBP.

Dr Charlotte Nkuna: Vice Chairman, National Animal Health Forum, briefed the Committee on the issue of OBP, which had been started a few years back and had progressively not been resolved, as all parties had not reached a point where all parties were satisfied with the development. OBP was an important entity not only to DAFF, but to farmers as well, as it provided vaccines that were not produced by any other facility. Therefore, if its vaccine production was not going well it would have a wide-ranging effect. Issues to be ironed out included the production of vaccines such as Bluetongue and Brucellosis S16, as there had been a struggle to get the right quantity of these vaccines at the right time for a few years. There had been several engagements with the entity on how to get to a point where the parties were satisfied, but it seemed the issue was beyond OBP. Communication was also an issue in terms of updating the farmers on vaccine availability, and this needed to be addressed.

There was need to understand how these problems could be resolved as it would be difficult to assist OBP if their problems and challenges were not understood. Moving forward, solutions should be looked into, as farmers needed vaccines.

Mr Leon de Beer, CEO: NWGA, briefed the Committee on wool sheep farming -- a lucrative commodity for rural development in the Eastern Cape. The Association represented South African wool producers and had a voluntary membership of 4 325 commercial producers, with 756 communal shearing sheds which represented about 15 000 individual small-holder and communal wool sheep farmers.

Export destinations in 2013/14 included countries like China, the Czech Republic, Italy, India, Germany, Egypt and the U.K. Other countries include Mauritius, Portugal and Hong Kong.

Key challenges of emerging producers were the quality and quantity of wool produced in communal areas; informal market/traders; infrastructure; harvesting and classing wool; market access; knowledge and information; stock and wool theft; predation and stray dogs.

The social impacts of sheep farming on the sector were reflected in the fact that income from sales of wool and mutton made up 47% internal income in 2004, and this had increased to 59% in 2006 and 65% in 2009. Social indicators from 2004 to 2009 showed a reduction in the percentage of children going to bed hungry, from 43.1% to 27.3%. Households’ savings accounts had increased from 56.9% to 77.3%, and borrowed money for school fees had reduced from 78.4% to 52.3%. Job creation had resulted in a 30% increase in the number of communal producers in the formal market.

In conclusion, he added that wool was a non-perishable market when this was opportune. The export product earned foreign currency for households in the most rural and extensive farming areas in South Africa. Wool was ‘new’ money to stimulate and support the rural economy. Wool had been the stimulus for the establishment of many rural towns in South Africa over two centuries, plus a commercial bank. Wool had the potential to continue to support rural development even today. NWGA needed a partnership with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to continue with the research and development.

Discussion

Ms A Steyn (DA) thanked the NWGA for their presentation, and added that it was important to meet with the industry role players in order to know the problems they had on a daily basis. Information was required on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and on production in provinces other than the Eastern Cape, since the NWGA was a national organization. She asked for an explanation of a graph shown in the presentation.

Mr Prinsloo replied that the graph was basically meant to explain the impact of vaccine unavailability on production, and the effect of what happened when it was available. Currently in South Africa there were two seasons and if vaccines were not available for farmers to inoculate before going into the next season, it would affect their production.

Mr De Beer said that the NWGA had a small footprint in KZN and was in negotiation with the KZN department to see if it could build extension offices, which needed to be supported by infrastructure projects. The NWGA also had a smaller footprint in the Free State, but due to a lack of funds or a lack of capacity, it had been low key. The NWGA could also roll out to the Northern Cape, but some training would be needed by the farmers. He was not sure of the status of the MoU since 2011 -- the NWGA had been working with DAFF on the possibility of renewing the MoU since then.

Mr Ramokhaose commented that most of the issues raised were operational matters which were not related to policies. He required an explanation on why the NWGA was short of expertise and why it struggled to get vaccines. Communication on vaccine availability should not really be a problem. He wondered why there was a serious gap in operations, when the policies were clear. He asked about when the Wool Trust had been established, the effect on training and how it should be handled.

Mr Prinsloo replied that the NWGA was one of the beneficiaries of the Wool Trust, as it got about R9 million per year from the trust. 65% of the budget went to small scale farmers and communal farmers of the Eastern Cape. The NWGA had a database of successful communal farmers that benefited from the NWGA.

Mr De Beer said that informal trading was a free market system and the only way to convince communal farmers in the informal market was to train them and give them information that there was a formal market, where income could be placed vertically. The problem was that most of these small scale farmers had only four or five sheep, and about forty sheep would be needed to make a bale of wool, hence the need for communal farming sheds, where farmers would be organized around infrastructure so that they could collectively market their products on a business scale. This emphasised the need to train farmers to get access to the formal market. The wool brokers were the main role players in this industry as they assisted the farmers to sample the wool and test for quality.

Dr Nkuna said that the vaccines were not on the market, and a response would be better explained by OBP.

Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) commented on the need to hear from small scale farmers when the Committee went on oversight visits. Elaboration was required on the support that the NWGA was being offered by the DRDLR, DAFF and the provinces in terms of shearing, as well as on the role of the NWGA in marketing. He asked if there was a unit responsible for marketing.

Mr De Beer said that the DRDLR had been a close partner to the NWGA in the past, but unfortunately the Association had not received much support from the previous administration. The Minister had come to the Association’s rescue and had been supportive with infrastructure. DAFF could give the NWGA money for genetic improvement and infrastructure. NWGA needed money for training and mentorship, as it needed to extend its offices by training more extension officers in more provinces. NWGA had met with the Department of Home Affairs towards the end of last year on the problems with shearing. The focus would be on training shearers from South Africa, and Home Affairs had helped NWGA to classify sheep shearing as a critical skill which would assist the Association in getting visas for people from Lesotho. NWGA envisaged training 450 sheep shearers this year.

The Chairperson asked for clarification on the developmental programmes offered by NWGA, and their challenges. In the last interaction NWGA had with the Portfolio Committee, it had referred to challenges with labour it sourced from Lesotho, and there had been an agreement with the previous Committee that South Africans would be trained. She asked if the 30% job creation mentioned in the presentation referred to South Africans, or to those from Lesotho.

Mr De Beer replied that the 30% job creation was for South Africans only.

Ms Steyn asked about the losses in 2010/11.

Mr Prinsloo replied that in 2010/11, there had been a decline of about 4 million kg. About 46 million kg had been produced, of which 8% had come from the communal farmers. Eastern Cape and Lesotho wool was marketed through the South African market auction system, so a loss of about 4 million kg per year would be estimated at a rate of R50 to R60 per kg. However, the price of wool had been stable over the last three years.

The Chairperson thanked the delegates for their presentation.

Briefing by Horse Racing Association

Mr Larry Weinstein, CEO: Horse Racing Association, said the association had been established in 2005 with the assistance of the Western Cape government. It was a nongovernmental organization.

Dr Bennie van der Merwe, Councillor: Thoroughbred Breeders Association, briefed the Committee on why the Association should be allowed to continue and the challenges it faced. African Horse Sickness (AHS) was a disease prevalent in South African horses, and this had reduced the chances of exporting horses to other countries from South Africa. The hosting of the Olympic Games would never be considered because of AHS. South Africa could not go for the Olympics in 2024, hence the need to address the Committee. The Association had held a workshop on the import and export of horses with some international veterinarians, where it had been suggested that if there was a lock-up facility in Cape Town it would prevent the spread of AHS and would enable the export of horses from South Africa. Vaccines were very important in the combat of horse diseases, as was the use of a diagnostic test tool to determine the presence of the diseases.

Discussion

Ms Steyn asked if there was a way to distinguish between vaccinated animals and infected animals. What was the main use of the diagnostic tool? She asked why exports were banned if the risk was said to be minimal. Animals that participated in sports events must be vaccinated with OBP vaccines, and she asked if there was a record of deaths of vaccinated animals.

Dr Van der Merwe replied that the diagnostic test was a DNA-based molecular test that gave a rapid result. The European Union (EU) had the resources to check whether countries could validate their claims that animals were vaccinated, so it was convenient for countries to hide behind the long protocol made by the EU. South Africa had come up with this diagnostic tool, which needed to be absorbed into the EU manual. It was the first diagnostic tool in the world that was good enough, as it gave consistent and very accurate test results which could be certified with absolute certainty.

He added that the Association was still preempting the finding on why the risk of exporting AHS would be minimal. Traditionally the rest of the country had been experiencing an outbreak of AHS every year during late summer, when there was a high activity of the disease that transmitted AHS. The Western Cape had not been affected with AHS, as the disease usually started in other provinces and then migrated to other parts of the country. AHS was a notifiable disease and it was the duty of the veterinarians to report death cases.

Mr Ramokhoase commented that the problems of the Association were mainly policy issues, and asked them to propose how to deal with the law in order to favor the Association.

Dr Van der Merwe replied that there was legislation in place that regulated the movement of horses into Western Cape Province because of the efforts to comply with the old EU and Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) legislation, to keep the disease out of Western Cape. However there were international challenges which the province could not overrule.

Mr Maxagwane commented that the Department had taken some steps to address the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) redline in the country. He asked the association to clarify what it had done in terms of FMD/redline. He also asked for the problems in the Eastern Cape, as they were not in the capacity to compete.

Dr Van der Merwe replied that in the Western Cape there was traditionally a lack of the annual AHS due to the legislation that restricted the movement of horses into the province hence a lot had been done, but more could be done in controlling diseases. Government intervention was needed in the industry.

Ms Edith Vries, Director General, DAFF, commented that the theme for this year was centred on growing the economy. Agriculture was a sector that would bring about economic growth and job creation in the shortest possible time. She applauded the presentation of the NWGA which highlighted the size of the industry and the impact of wool quality on the economy. However, some of the issues raised were operational matters and OBP would address the issue on vaccine production.

DAFF had to raise more money from Treasury to address the infrastructure issues at OBP. Industrialization was a priority to the President, so the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was interested in the expansion of OBP. She added that OBP had released 7 000 doses of Bluetongue vaccines and by the end of January, the entity released 1 million doses. She said suppliers placed orders to which OBP responded, as oversupply could not be made in excess of demand because vaccines would lose their shelf-life, which involved huge losses.

Dr Bothle Modisane: Chief Director, Animal Production and Health: DAFF commented that the MoU was being worked on, as it had gone to Legal Services. He added that vaccine efficacy was not an issue, as vaccines would have been withdrawn by OBP if the efficacy was not good. There were three types of Bluetongue vaccines, and the problem with live vaccines was that the timing of the vaccines had not been prompt, as it was prudent to vaccinate much earlier -- before the risky season. The issue of vaccine availability would be addressed by OBP.

He said that during the outbreak of Yellow Fever disease, a lot of precautions had been taken and DAFF had always been involved in negotiations with the Organization for Animal World Health to try to broker an agreement with the Chinese Government on the importation of wool. DAFF met regularly with the NWGA and would address any issues of concern together.

He commented that DAFF had had a meeting with the Deputy Minister on challenges involving the establishment of lock-up facilities, as there were different views from the Western Cape, KZN and the Eastern Cape. The Western Cape had never had cases of African Horse Sickness, which had been used as a negotiating point for purposes of export to all over the world, but the EU had concern about the outbreak happening in the free zone of the Western Cape. DAFF had negotiated for a better free facility from which South Africa could export horses to Mauritius, Dubai or other areas. The group negotiating for an establishment of a locked up facility in KZN was looking at it from the point of view of the Olympics taking place in KZN. Under normal circumstances, KZN was a high risk area and other countries may not be interested in importing their horses from KZN. From the Western Cape point of view, there was a better chance, as the weather had not been transmitting AHS, hence the need to come to one position of negotiation.

Ms Vries commented that the MoU with the NWGA had not been implemented. There was a need to sort out some issues, because the MoU was being funded by the DRDLR.

DAFF on World Organisation on Animal Health (OIE) mission to South Africa

Dr Mpho Maja: Director: Animal Health, DAFF, briefed the Committee on the OIE mission to South Africa to evaluate controls for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

2013 OIE Mission

The 2013 OIE Mission, which covered four countries that had zones free of FMD, started on 28 October with a visit to Namibia and Botswana before coming to South Africa from 3 to 8 November. A one-day visit to Swaziland was slotted in during the South Africa visit, on 5 November. The aim of the mission was to assess the implementation and compliance with the relevant provisions of the Terrestrial Code, to ensure the maintenance of FMD free status and in the case of South Africa, to assess the situation following the suspension of its FMD free status with effect from 25 February 2011.

The following findings were made from the mission:

* Identification of animals within the protection zone;

* Visibility of the veterinary services control;

* The internal control measures already applied in the protection zone should continue to be managed;

* Introduction of animals from the protection zone into the free zone;

* Ndumo and Tembe must be managed similar to the Kruger National Park (KNP);

* the protection zone in KNP, and maintenance of the international fences.

 

Following this mission, the Department submitted an addendum to the OIE, giving specific assurances. 600 000 unique ear tags were procured for the protection zones and the high surveillance zone of KZN; a software system to enable data capturing of individual tags as well as ownership was procured, though this process proved to be lengthy. The veterinary procedural notice was amended to comply fully with the OIE Code and its terminology. The fence in KZN, which used to be called the ‘redline fence,’ was re-erected and the international fence continued to be maintained, though financial constraints made it difficult.

2014 OIE Mission

The 2014 OIE Mission was dedicated to South Africa as a follow up to the 2013 mission. This mission took place from 30 November to 6 December 2014. Its aim was to assess the compliance with the relevant provisions of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Terrestrial Code), and to ensure the maintenance of FMD free status -- including the measures described in the addendum to the application which was submitted for recovery of FMD free status in January 2014, regarding Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KZN provinces.

Findings

The following findings were made from 2014 OIE mission:

* Progress had been made with regard to the animal identification, though progress was found to be slow. The team advised that tagging had started from outwards inwards, thus ensuring that animals close to the free zone were identifiable should they stray into the free zone.

* Progress had been made with the building of the ‘redline fence’. They raised concern, however, that there were no manned check points.

* A few breakage points were discovered by the RSA-Zimbabwe border fence and there was no documented procedure on how stray animals would be handled when found.

* Separation of animals at dipping in KZN -- due to a shortage of facilities, animals from the protection zone and those from the high surveillance zone were dipped on the same day.

* Slaughter of animals from the protection zone was not being practised at the abattoir.

* Availability of vaccines -- a number of dip tanks in Limpopo were unvaccinated due to the Mpumalanga outbreak last year.

* The eastern boundary fence of Ndumo had been brought down by the community, making the possibility of contact between buffalo and cattle likely.

* Despite visibility having been a finding in 2013, very little had been achieved with road signage to inform the general public of the boundaries.

* Completion and manning of the redline fence must be adhered to.

* Identification of animals closest to the free zone should be given priority.

* Filling of vacant posts had improved only slightly.

* The team advised that monitoring of vaccinated animals, to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine, should be introduced.

 

Progress

Dr Maja said the 2014 OIE Mission had indicated the following areas of progress:

* Approximately 30 kilometers of the RSA-Zimbabwe border fence had been repaired and a standard operating procedure for the handling of animals had been developed and signed off.

* KZN had prioritized the construction of dipping facilities, which would resolve the problem of separation of animals at dipping.

* So far, only two abattoirs in Limpopo were slaughtering animals from protection zone.

* Availability of vaccines: 300 000 doses of vaccines had been procured, half of which went to Limpopo. 13 657 animals had been vaccinated by the end of January and it was expected that the vaccination campaign would be completed by the end of February. A further 300 000 doses were in the process of being procured from Botswana.

* The KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development had undertaken to construct the eastern boundary fence of Ndumo. Construction would commence during February and be completed in June 2015.

* Surveillance of buffalo in both reserves was another concern. Work in this area had already started with samples from Tembe being collected and sampling in Ndumo to commence in the second half of March.

* Visibility: all three provincial Departments of Transport had been approached and all had given permission for signage to be put up. Procurement of road signage was in progress, with Limpopo having placed orders and expecting delivery by the end of February 2015.

* Completion of the redline fence was expected at the end of May 2015, as 36% of the fence had been completed. 28 check points would be built into the fence, with 137 permanent posts already being funded, and 77 of which were filled.

* Identification of animals: prioritization of animals in the protection zone closest to the free zone had started.

* Efforts were under way by DAFF to have vacant posts filled. 25 tradesman aid posts would be filled by the end of March.

* Post-vaccination monitoring programme: DAFF had established a surveillance plan for the entire protection zone and for the high surveillance zone of KZN.

* The Minister, Deputy Minister and Director General had led the “Operation Compliance” campaign in January, which consisted of Izimbizo and media campaigns.

 

DAFF: Update on Compulsory Community Service regulations

Dr Julian Jaftha: Chief Director: Plant Production and Health: DAFF updated the Committee on the Compulsory Community Service (CCS) regulations.

In terms of the Veterinary and Para-veterinary Amendment Act of 2012, the regulations for CCS were drafted and gazetted during 2013. Stakeholders were also consulted and workshops were held with students at the University of Pretoria.

The main challenge in finalising the CCS Regulations was that Section 20A(1) of the Act mandated that any person registering for the first time for veterinary and para-veterinary must perform CCS from commencement of the Act. The DAFF’s intention was a phased-in approach, starting with veterinarians and proceeding to the para-veterinary professionals in later years.

Section 20A (3) provided for the Minister to prescribe the circumstances under which persons may be exempted from CCS. The DAFF, the South Africa Veterinary Council and state law advisors who drafted the principal Act, met on 30 January 2015 to explore the implications of utilizing Section 20A(3) of the new Act as a method of averting the legal shortcomings, without amending the principal Act. Following the meeting, the state law advisors opted to re-look at both the proposed regulations and the implications of Section 20A(3) with regard to exemptions. There had been feedback on 20 February 2015 on the interpretation of Section 20A (3).

The DAFF’s legal services, together with the technical directorate concerned, were still reviewing the latest legal opinion regarding the exemptions of paravets.

Briefing by Onderstepoort Biological Products

Ms Mpume Ramutle: Acting CEO of OBP, briefed the Committee on the importance of vaccines.

Vaccines were a preventive measure and were important to the success of primary healthcare. Veterinary vaccines were essential for protection of national herds, safe and efficient food production, control of emerging, re-emerging and exotic diseases of animals and people, reduction of transmission of most livestock diseases, control and prevention against most zoonotic diseases such as rabies, influenza, and brucellosis, and contributed to a reduction in usage of antibiotics.

Raw materials/current processes in vaccine production include: disinfecting, autoclaving and discarding of waste material; cleaning of glassware, vessels and other small equipment/material; chemical dispensary; small medium production; bulk medium production (bacterial vaccines); viral medium production (viral vaccines) and ice packs.

Among key challenges in vaccine production was the recycling of glassware -- which was still being done manually. There was need to move to disposable/single- use options. Recycling of plastic ware such as roller bottles was not acceptable for good manufacturing practice (GMP). Capital investment for new equipment was needed to eliminate hand washing, as opposed to washing machines.

Key challenges in the field of bacterial vaccine production were:

* Infrastructure: plants needed to be upgraded, and new equipment was needed to increase yield.

* Current equipment was becoming redundant -- new processes and technology needed to be cost effective.

* Outdated processes with low yields were not competitive, hence the need for a better process flow and skilled personnel.

* The high cost of production disadvantaged farmers. There was no pilot plan for R&D, hence the need for proper infrastructure that was GMP compliant.

 

Viral vaccine production faced challenges with its open production process, monolayer; lack of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); older technology (roller bottles, bottles of medium-new biobags and bioreactors (suspension cells)); sharing of the formulation room; no pilot plant facility and equipment.

Vaccine packaging challenges included redundant and old equipment; open lines; no HVAC; bottlenecks; predominantly hand-packing; unlinked, unconnected processes.

OBP was currently undergoing recapitalization with the objective of obtaining current Good Manufacturing Practice certification. Treasury had provided funding -- approximately R492 million -- for three years for this project, starting in 2012/13. The project consisted of three components: upgrade and modernization of the infrastructure and equipment, improving production processes, and training of staff. Phase 1 was upgrading the equipment of the old factory, and Phase 2 was the construction of a new facility. OBP had recently appointed the professional team to commence this work.

Ms Ramutle said OBP would become efficient and serve both local and international markets. There would be less disruption in production, with affordable products, especially for small holder farmers. Better technology was being introduced.

However, changing from old to new processes had its own inherent risks, and availability of the following products had been affected: African Horse Sickness, Bluetongue, B-Phemeral, Brucella S19 and Rift Valley Fever.

A statement had been released in August 2014 indicating that some of the major issues had been resolved. OBP had promised that products mentioned would again be available from October 2014, and it had kept to this promise. Already, since late September 2014, key products such as AHS, Brucella S19 and B.Phemeral had been released to date. Nine out of the 12 products with which OBP had problems, had been delivered. Clamysure vaccine would be available in the first quarter of 2015.

In conclusion, after all equipment had been installed by end of April 2015, yields would be increased.

Discussion

The Chairperson commented that funds had been provided to OBP in 2013 to refurbish their office. This had been going at a slow pace, which was not helpful.

Mr Z Mandela (ANC) commented on the NWGA impact on wool exportation to other countries, and asked how they would ensure that the presentation was able to head out to the communities. The visibility of the NWGA was questionable, as it was located in Port Elizabeth, whereas the Eastern Cape was one of the biggest provinces in terms of meat production – it was known to have about six million sheep and seven million goats. Wool from these communities did not get to the markets, as most sheep were eaten by vultures, hence the need to capacitate people from grassroots to be able to produce wool and get it to the market, rather than focusing on exporting only. There was need to focus on refining the wool, as a lot of industries had collapsed due to international pressures. He asked what DAFF was doing in order to reach out to these communities and ensure their empowerment. He raised concern about the visibility of NWGA, located in PE, as a lot of lands were communally owned. He asked about the relationship of NWGA with the council/traditional leaders in terms of establishing centres of engagement, so as to be able to reach the communal people.

Mr Prinsloo replied that much of South Africa’s wool goes to Europe, as South Africa was not competitive enough worldwide for clothing production, hence the reason for wool export. Two big plants that produced gowns in the Eastern Cape had closed down because South Africa could not compete globally in clothing production. He said NWGA would like to invite the Committee to see the wool industry.

Mr De Beer said that there was a huge role that NWGA could play in terms of training and mentorship. There were about 750 000 hectares of land that were not planted, and planting those hectares would double the stocking rate in the Eastern Cape. With funds from the Department, a meeting would be set up with the communities on where infrastructure would be located, as the NWGA did not have the capacity to reach out to everybody. There were many producers of wool among the communal farmers who could access the commercial markets. NWGA was trying to establish cooperatives, as it had identified the top communities producing wool and had trained their production advisers on the principles of cooperatives. These communities would have to participate voluntarily in these programmes, as the production advisers would remain for a period of three to four years as mentors to ensure that they managed the cooperatives securely. If successful with this programme, then NWGA would roll out to more communities.

Mr Ramakhaose commented that the issue of service delivery to the people should be looked into, as the government had promised to deal with the issue of poverty and job creation. The President had made a pronouncement on the need for radical economic transformation, which the Department must understand in order to deliver to the people. He added that OBP should come up with solutions to overcome the vaccine unavailability.

Dr Modisane replied that normally the laws of the country were meant to be enabling, but they became a problem when there were requirements to export commodities, hence the need to take into consideration the laws of the importing country. Those were the ones that normally determined what needed to be done, hence the idea of protocols to enable the exportation of such commodities.

Ms Steyn expressed her displeasure at the DG’s comment that all things had been done to address the problems of vaccine availability, as OBP had not kept to their promises. The efficacy of the vaccines could not be known unless there was an outbreak. There was need to know the number of horses that had died from AHS after they were vaccinated. She required clarity on the negotiations that the Department had with China. She asked why it was taking the DAFF a long time to sign an MoU and wondered why the DRDLR was involved. She congratulated the Department on the OIE progress and required a full report from the Department on all its inputs. She asked if Botswana had supplied the full batch of FMD vaccine, or if OBP had produced part of the vaccines. How far had OBP had gone with the process of ORF/OVI/FMD vaccines, as the OBP was not known for development of vaccines. She expressed her displeasure about the CCS regulation report passed to the Committee in the last five years. She asked why there was massive shortage of practitioners on ground. She was concerned about the number of AHS cases reported to the OIE -- that only one animal had died -- and asked who was responsible for reporting to OIE on diseases, as declaration was expected to be done.

Mr Prinsloo replied that the NWGA had met with the Deputy Minister in August on the MoU issue and also had a meeting with the DG on 20 January, and was sure progress would be made. He added that vaccines were not arriving on time, as farmers needed to inoculate in October, January and February.

Dr Maja acknowledged that there was under-reporting of incidences to the OIE, as indicated by Ms Steyn, and explained that OIE did not report individual cases of diseases, but events of diseases. OIE had a process of reporting diseases to DAFF, and DAFF would not want to report to OIE as well.

Dr Modisane replied that negotiation was necessary to convince an importing country that the commodities to be imported were safe. The actual barrier to horse exporting was AHS, and other countries would come up with laws to prevent AHS. Likewise other countries imported wool from South Africa, and there was a need to convince them that wool from South Africa was safe.

FMD vaccine had been sourced from Botswana, as there had been a need for OBP to revamp its production process when its vaccines were getting contaminated, in order to address the problem. FMD was a transmissible disease and the biosecurity was very high, so OBP could not combine the production of FMD vaccines with other vaccines.

He said that normally vaccinated animals were meant to develop immunity against the disease, but that was not always the case as many factors could affect the efficacy of such vaccines. Vaccines only reduced the risk of contracting the disease and under very high exposure they could still contact the disease. Environmental-host factors could be responsible for the deaths of vaccinated animals. For instance, poor handling of the vaccines could affect their protective function.

Mr P Mabe (ANC) commented that the Department should endeavor to write acronyms in full in their presentations to the Committee. There was a need to address the social challenges of the people in terms of job creation and departments should be able to report the number of jobs created. All the government departments and entities had to report the number of job created to the ruling party, which should constitute part of the Committee’s oversight visit. The graph of sustainable jobs should be progressive, not regressive.

Ms Z Jongloed (DA) commented that she had also asked for a list of all the acronyms from the Department last year. She required clarity on transformation in the wool sector on genetic improvement, training and mentorship. What were the factors that made it impossible for communities to tap into the opportunities in communal forests?

Mr Zama Xalisa: Senior Manager: National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) said that some of the programmes in the wool industry had not been useful in transforming the sector as a whole. It was important for farmers to participate in the whole wool chain, rather than just train them to be breeders.

The Chairperson said it was important to understand how the Wool Trust was supposed to operate. She added that the Committee would invite all the Fund Trusts and the NAMC to present on the specific transformational outcomes.

Ms Steyn said that she was not impressed with OBP’s communication strategy on vaccine availability.

The Chairperson asked when the implementation of the compulsory veterinary services would begin. How far had the NWGA gone in ensuring that South Africans were trained in jobs, as agreed by the last Portfolio Committee? She commented that there should be a balance in the timing of vaccine availability in the market by OBP, and the timing for farmers to inoculate their animals. Government was focusing on job creation and building small and medium enterprises (SMEs), hence clarity was required on job creation. She congratulated the DAFF on its OIE progress update, and asked why OBP was not moving at the required speed. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) had once told the Committee that it was doing research on FMD, and she wondered why ARC was not working with OBP.

Mr Prinsloo said that the NWGA had agreed with the last Committee to train South Africans on jobs, and the Department of Home Affairs had made shearing a critical skill, so the Association would train enough shearers in the shortest possible time.

Dr Nkuna replied that it was important to get enough information on vaccines for farmers to be able to plan, so that they would be able to survive those periods when vaccines were not available.

Ms Vries welcomed the idea that the state law advisers present to the Committee. She apologised for the acronyms used in the presentations, and promised that subsequent presentations would be noted. She said subsequent presentations would also include jobs created, and issues raised on the MoU would be addressed. DAFF would intervene on issues raised on vaccine efficacy and OBP communications on vaccine availability.

The Chairperson thanked all the delegates present and said the Committee would continue to communicate, as agriculture had been identified as one of the key drivers of the economy.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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