Update on diseases of economic importance & new export protocols, time frames: department briefing

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

04 February 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Mandela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development had recently been briefed by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on the status of the outbreaks of animal and plant diseases and the impact of these diseases on the agricultural sector. The Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) appeared to have caused the most economic harm to the sector.

Minister Thoko Didiza, in her introductory remarks, informed the Committee diseases such as swine fever and FMD had had a negative impact on the economy last year, especially in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, and Limpopo. The Department had discussions with municipalities on how to have commonages in terms of assisting the communities in looking after their animals so that they could be assisted by veterinarians.

She enlightened the Committee since January 2019 the Department has tried to stamp out the FMD disease, but it kept on resurfacing. With respect to Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and KwaZulu-Natal there were endemic areas for FMD, especially in the Kruger National Park where the buffaloes were the carriers. She also indicated the immediate impact was that once a disease broke, it became necessart to report it to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) so that it could be reported to the other countries and stakeholders. That had made it difficult to determine how the other countries were going to react. Others would reject exports from South Africa, while some would concentrate on provinces not affected.

 

Minister Didiza reported that the Department had ended 2019 positively. SA had been chosen to serve on the AU Technical Committee for Agriculture and Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi had been appointed as the chairperson of the committee. The country had not lost market access for beef and wool. SA had launched the first meeting of the African-China Forum on Agriculture. Already there were projects on which China and other African states were embarking. The Department was looking at ways of not displacing what was being done in other African states because there were projects the SADC wanted to do. Export markets have been opened up in Middle East for meat. The Middle East was importing for food security reasons because that area was not producing many items as it was a desert

The Department had indicated there had been outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Diseases, African Swine Fever, Brucellosis and Anthrax. She stated the OIE had recognized most of South Africa as being free from FMD, without vaccination – a FMD-free zone. Excluded from the free zone were the protection zone and infected zone. The infected zone consisted of the Kruger National Park (KNP) and adjacent private game parks (also known as the KNP complex), Ndumo and Tembe reserves in Kwa-Zulu Natal where permanently infected buffaloes were kept.

 

Since November 2019, more than 130 properties had been investigated due to possible links with specific auctions and affected properties. Follow-up investigations were continuing and investigations on 95 properties had been completed. Precautionary quarantine had already been lifted on 44 of these properties that had been proven to be negative for FMD. Further disease investigation was ongoing. Awareness on FMD clinical signs and biosecurity measures were ongoing. Active and passive surveillance was still continuing.

From investigations conducted, it had become very apparent the infection spread through auctions. It was soon realized the risk lay in the gathering of animals and that animals could be trucked to any province further south. The ban had then been expanded to include all gatherings and the entire country. The temporary ban would be reconsidered once the Department reaches a stage where it is confident the situation was under control. This was envisaged to be late February 2020 barring any unforeseen circumstances which may arise in the interim. The Department was aware of the social and economic impact of the decision on livestock owners. The economic loses to the entire country should the disease spread out of this area far outweighed the individual owner’s losses. This impact had been felt during the January 2019 outbreak where all markets of cloven-hoofed animals and products had been suspended.

The Committee further heard about the occurrence of other animal disease of significance to animal health such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, anthrax and rabies.  The Department stated there was a very high incident of brucellosis in the country. As a result, a new policy has been drafted and sent out for public comment in the last quarter. The Department was collaborating with the industry on its control. Anthrax, which is a global disease, has not been reported as an outbreak in the past two years. It was a fatal disease affecting all animals and humans. It had also been indicated that there was a total of 10 laboratory-confirmed cases of human rabies in 2019: 4 in KZN, 4 in EC and 2 in Limpopo. The disease was preventable through vaccination. The impact of these diseases had resulted in loss of production, death of humans, loss of markets and job losses.

The Department then talked discussed health pests. It reported the South African phytosanitary regulatory systems are based on scientific justification and principles, and international standards. It also touched on the potential socio-economic impact of these plant diseases. The Department centred its briefing on the following plant pests: Fall Armyworm, Oriental Fruitfly, Banana Bunch Top Virus, Polyphagus Shot Hole Borer, Macadamia Felted Coccid and Citrus Black Spot.

The Department updated the Committee on the new agricultural products export protocols. In the 2019/20 financial year, new markets had been opened. That had resulted in SA exporting poultry meat to the United Arab Emirates, beef to Oman, China and Jordan, sheep to Kuwait, and live cattle, sheep and goats to Qatar. From 2018 up to the present, SA has been exporting lucern to China, apples to Taiwan, and bulk reefer shipments of citrus fruit to China. Other export protocol negotiations on avocadoes to Japan, pears to China, and citrus fruit to the Philippines were in the final stages.

Members wanted to know what the status quo was regarding the export of lucern to China because they feared established farmers were going to export lucern to China which would not give new entrants a chance to be mainstream role players; members wanted to understand if compensation was given to a farmer or producer when his/her animals have been culled; Members further suggested that a need existed  to strengthen the campaign of closing auctions through local municipalities and constituency offices for o that people could be informed and not to be too concerned; it was remarked that the monopoly given to the University of Pretoria in the training of veterinarians should be done away with and a start be made to implement what the Minister had proposed – the opening of a veterinary faculty in another university; an appeal was made to the Minister to lift the ban on auctions in the FMD unaffected areas so that farmers could service their debts.

Meeting report

Briefing by the Department on plant pests and animal diseases

Minister Thoko Didiza, in her introductory remarks, informed the Committee diseases such as the swine fever and FMD had a negative impact on the economy last year, especially in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, and Limpopo. The Department had had discussions with municipalities on how to have commonages in terms of assisting the communities in looking after their animals so that they could be assisted by veterinarians. She stated her Department has been engaging with the department of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs in this regard to help communities.

She told the Committee that since January 2019 the Department had tried to stamp out the FMD disease, but that it had kept on resurfacing. With respect to Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and KwaZulu-Natal there were endemic areas for FMD, especially in the Kruger National Park where the buffaloes were the carriers. The buffer areas between the communities and the fenced zone had provided challenges around the maintenance of the fence, especially in Limpopo. Because of drought some animals had strayed to these endemic areas in search of water.

She noted the challenge has been on tracing in both directions the people who had brought the animals which were the carriers of the disease. Communication and management of information has proven to be another challenge. Consequently, the Department had sat down with the industry on how to manage the outbreak and devised a strategy. She indicated the immediate impact was that once a disease broke out, you need to report it to the OIE so that it could be reported to the other countries and stakeholders. That had made it difficult to determine how the other countries were going to react. Others would reject exports from SA, while some would concentrate on provinces not affected.

When the checks had been done on where the animals were introduced, it was discovered the Mabopane area was the epicentre. In the interventions that were done in Limpopo, the Department had worked with red meat producers, auctioneers and other relevant stakeholders. She highlighted that the Limpopo situation tested the resilience between the government and the private sector. It had also tested the governance system. The Committee had to start working with the select committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in order to manage the sector.

The capacity of the Department had been tested as well. She said the country used to have two universities for the training of veterinarians – MEDUNSA and Pretoria University. Since the two merged in the training of veterinarians, there had been a decrease in the number of trained and roaming veterinarians. In the short to medium term, veterinary science was going to be declared a scarce skill. In the medium to long term, the Department would see if there could be another university to offer veterinary studies.

Concerning the sector plan, she stated there was a need to position the poultry industry to open up and be innovative, especially for exports. It has to capture the export market because in terms of the World Trade Organization when you have opened up for one country had been opened cannot be up, other countries could not be kept away. That was why there had been chicken meat exports from Brazil, Denmark, Thailand, etc. As a result, local players had suffered and had closed businesses.

Regarding the sugar sector plan, she said efforts had been focused on developing an industry out of cane so that the industry did not rely on sugar. Many beverage companies were no longer buying sugar now. Hence there had been a need to develop new industries to create more job opportunities. This was putting pressure on the Department to strengthen its research capacity to come up with new innovative technologies.

Minister Didiza reported that the Department closed 2019 positively. SA had been chosen to serve on the AU Technical Committee for Agriculture and Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi had been appointed as the chairperson of the committee. The country had not lost market access on beef and wool. SA had launched the first meeting of the African-China Forum on Agriculture. Already, and there were projects on which China and other African states were embarking. The Department was looking at ways of not displacing what was being done in other African states because there were projects the Southern Africa Development Corporation wanted to do. Export markets had been opened up in the Middle East for meat. The Middle East was importing for food security reasons because that area was not producing many items as it was a desert.

Then Dr Mpho Maja, Director for Animal Health: DALRRD, took the Committee through the animal diseases that were affecting the agricultural sector and the impact of these diseases in the agriculture industry. There had been outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Diseases, African swine fever, Brucellosis and Anthrax. She stated the OIE had recognized most of South Africa as being free from FMD, without vaccination – the FMD-free zone. Excluded from the free zone were the protection zone and infected zone. The infected zone consisted of the Kruger National Park (KNP) and adjacent private game parks (also known as the KNP complex), Ndumo and Tembe reserves in KwaZulu-Natal where permanently infected buffaloes are kept.
 
To protect the integrity of the free zone, a protection zone with vaccination (closest to an infected zone) and a protected zone without vaccination (closest to the free zone) were established. The protection zone is outside the free zone, so any reported cases in the protection zone do not affect the status of the free zone. As an additional control measure, an increased inspection measure is applied on the inside of the free zone border (part of the free zone). This is the high surveillance area of the free zone. If an outbreak was detected in this area, the FMD-free status would be lost.

On 7 January 2019, an FMD outbreak had been confirmed in cattle in the Vhembe District in Limpopo Province. The virus was identified as a SAT 2. The outbreak had occurred in the high surveillance area of the FMD free zone, immediately adjacent to the protection zone. The outbreak was reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and, as a result, South Africa had lost its FMD-free zone without vaccination status with effect from   2 January 2019. The affected animals were cattle kept in rural villages with communal dip tanks and grazing. Vaccination of cattle commenced on the 14 January 2019 and the second round on 25 February 2019. Culling of affected, in-contact or vaccinated animals in the area had not been advocated.

As a result, three task teams enjoining government and industry had been established:
Technical: which was the advisory group to the Department on the management
and control of the disease

Trade: which assisted the Department with negotiations

Communication: which assisted with media statements

The task teams had assisted in garnering cooperation and support in the industry at various levels

An application for a containment zone had been submitted to the OIE in April 2019 to facilitate the regaining of the former FMD free status of the country by excluding the containment zone. The application to the OIE for a containment zone, submitted in April, had been followed up by a meeting with the Status Committee during the OIE General Session in May. The application was not successful. The OIE had raised two main concerns:

The Department’s surveillance could not demonstrate that there was no longer a virus circulating
              in the area
That vaccinated and infected cattle were not culled (killed and disposed of).

Another SAT 2 FMD outbreak had been detected in Limpopo in September 2019 in a village in
Bende Mutale. A third outbreak of FMD SAT 2 virus was also detected in the Molemole Local Municipality in the Limpopo Province, north of Polokwane in the previously FMD free zone on 1 November 2019. The virus had been sequenced as being similar to the outbreak that has occurred in January 2019. All properties had been placed under quarantine.

Since November, more than 130 properties were being investigated due to possible links with specific auctions and affected properties. Follow-up investigations were continuing and investigations on 95 properties have been completed. Precautionary quarantine has already been lifted on 44 of these properties that have been proven to be negative for FMD. Further disease investigation was ongoing. Awareness on FMD clinical signs and biosecurity measures ongoing. Active and passive surveillance was continuing.

From investigations conducted, it had become very apparent the infection was spread through auctions. It was soon realized the risk lay in the gathering of animals and that animals can be trucked to any province further south. The ban had then been expanded to include all gatherings and the entire country. The temporary ban would be reconsidered once the Department reaches a stage where it is confident the situation is under control. This was envisaged to be late February 2020 barring any unforeseen circumstances which may arise in the interim. The Department was aware of the social and economic impact of the decision on livestock owners. The economic losses to the entire country should the disease spread out of this area far were outweighing the individual owner losses. This impact had been felt during the January 2019 outbreak where all markets of cloven-hoofed ans’imals and products were suspended.

High Pathological Avian Influenza (H5N8)

The first ever outbreak of HPAI in chickens in South Africa had been reported on 19 June 2017. Since the index case, a number of other poultry and ostrich operations as well as wild bird species have subsequently also been infected with HPAI. The outbreaks had already been resolved with the OIE. In terms of biosecurity, poultry and ostrich were compartmentalised. Awareness campaigns had been conducted to prevent contact with wild birds. Vaccination against HPAI was not allowed.

African Swine Fever (ASF)
In 2012 South Africa had experienced the first ASF outbreak epidemic outside the  controlled area. Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces were affected. A domestic cycle was observed: ASF had spread from a domestic pig to other domestic pigs either   through contact or through contact with infected pork products. It was spread mainly via auctions in these outbreaks. It was quickly eradicated by joint effort between Veterinary Services and SAPPO.

Outbreaks in North West, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape Provinces started during April 2019 at the Zeerust area in North West. The last reported outbreak was in November 2019 in the Standerton area. Current control measures had been applied in a joint effort between Veterinary Services and the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO). The disease had been spread through auctions, resulting in closure of pig auctions during June and July 2019. This measure would be re-evaluated once all cases have been closed and there was an indication there was no longer a circulating virus in the pig population. 20 outbreaks were reported of which 11 have been closed. It was also noted Veterinary Services on its own had not been able to control ASF.

African Horse Sickness (AHS)
There had been a low incident of this disease due to drought. It had been managed through the vaccination of horses. There has been a strict movement control into the Western Cape.  The AHS was prevalent in the Cape Town metro.
Dr Maja also briefed the Committee on the occurrence of other diseases of significance to animal health such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, anthrax and rabies.  She stated there was a very high incidence of brucellosis in the country. As a result, a new policy had been drafted and sent out for public comment in the last quarter. The Department was collaborating with the industry regarding its control. Anthrax, which was global disease, had not been reported as an outbreak in the past two years. It was a fatal disease affecting all animals and humans. It was also indicated there had been a total of 10 laboratory-confirmed cases of human rabies in 2019: 4 in KZN, 4 in EC and 2 in Limpopo. The disease was preventable through vaccination. The impact of these diseases had resulted in loss of production, death of humans, loss of markets, and job losses.

Dr Julian Jaftha, Chief Director for Plant Production and Health: DALRRD, talked about plant health pests. He stated the South African phytosanitary regulatory systems were based on scientific justification and principles, and international standards. He also touched on the potential socio-economic impact of these diseases.

Fall Armyworm (FAW)

There were over 40 agricultural remedies which could be applied against FAW. Fall Armyworm Steering Committee (coordination forum) had been established and continued to operate. Monthly reporting from
all role players was being encouraged. National surveillance continued. Five DALRRD funded FAW research projects with the Agricultural Research Council are continuing. Five Industry-led research programmes continued. It had occasionally been reported on groundnuts, sunflower, and sugarcane. It seemed FAW in SA only occured on maize and sorghum. Its impact on total maize production had been very low. Training in all provinces and regionally continued in partnership with FAO. Higher altitude commercial dryland producers were not affected, but small-scale and open pollinated producers were affected and could suffer up to 80% damage. Therefore, early detection remained essential for small-scale farmers.

Oriental Fruitfly (OFF)

It was managed through the national Exotic Fruit Fly Surveillance Programme. The pest had not been detected in the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape, and Free State Provinces, except for one case in Addo during October 2019. The pest was always present in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West and some parts of KZN. Removal control permits were required in terms of Regulation 110 of the Agricultural Pests Act, 1983 (Act No. 36 of 1983). Removal permits were not issued to growers where the number of Oriental fruit flies per trap per moth exceed ed10. Up to 100% of production loss could occur if the OFF was left untreated. Marketing of fruit in SA to OFF-free areas was restricted.

Banana Bunch Top Virus (BBTV)

BBTV remained in the Hibberdene area, Ugu District in KZN and was causing severe damage. The virus was spread with propagation material and aphids. It was spread from neighbouring countries to northern banana production areas in South Africa and that had remained a major threat. Infected banana plants cannot be saved and must be destroyed. This remained a food security risk for villages in the area who depend on bananas as a supplementary source of food. Banana producers may also stop farming because the BBTV is too expensive to control. DALRRD was continuing surveillance action in the area together with ARC. The Department had funded a research project with the ARC to optimise  the surveillance in the area and early detection in other areas.

Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB)

The fungus was causing branches to die and could eventually kill trees. The PSHB could fly locally, but spreads over larger distances in wood products including firewood and perhaps smaller ornamental trees that are moved around. The biggest threat for agriculture may lie in the avocado, pecan nut and macadamia nut industries. A pest specific steering committee was being chaired by the Directorate of Plant Health to engage with all stakeholders involved in agricultural, forestry and environment sector. The PSHB had a huge social impact as it affected mostly ornamental trees. The economic costs to remove and replant trees in cities were enormous.
           
Macadamia Felted Coccid (MFC)

This was a relatively new pest in SA on macadamias, detected in 2017 on macadamias in Barberton and towards Nelspruit.  Area nurseries had been quarantined but the pest had spread to White River. It could cause severe damage and the impact on the macadamia nut industry may be very high. An action plan was being developed and surveys were continuing together with the Agricultural Research Council. MFC could cause tree decline and infested macadamia nurseries could be closed down.

Citrus Black Spot

It was noticeable by a superficial blemish with no impact on the fruit quality. The Citrus Black Spot occurred in most citrus producing areas in South Africa. Officially recognized Citrus Black Spot free provinces are Western and Northern Cape. Citrus exports to European Union were subject to stringent phytosanitary measures. South Africa maintained the position that these measures were scientifically unjustified. Over the years, the EU had continued to tighten its regulations. South Africa complied with the European Union measures through an extensive Risk Management System.

In 2017, South Africa had exported 562 000 tons of citrus to the European Union (EU) and in the 2018 export season this increased to 599 000 tons. In 2019, 720 536 tons were exported to this market. The citrus value chain continued to be one of the most important in the agricultural sector employing more than 120 000 people. Compliance to the EU regulations was costing the industry more than a billion rand a year.

Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Deputy Director-General for Agricultural Production, Health and Food Security: DALRRD, updated the Committee on the new agricultural products export protocols. He indicated
import authorisation by trading partners was administered according to the legislative provisions of their respective countries. Therefore, export measures are based on import requirements.

The following were commonly applied import authorisations:

  • Permit systems
  • Directives
  • Protocols
  • Regulations
  • Combinations of the above.

He reported an export protocol was located at the end stage of a continuum of activities aimed at securing market access. An export protocol could nly be concluded only once the trade negotiations had been  finalised.

At any given stage there re trade negotiations with trading partners and these are invariably at different stages of advancement within the market access continuum. Some market access requests for some commodities were at questionnaire (initial) stage, while others were at health certification (final) stage. However, there were requests where negotiations had stalled.

Trade negotiations on sanitary and phytosanitary matters did not unfold along a straight-line trajectory as there was consistent exchange of notes on scientific and technical facets. Moreover, any projected or assumed pathway or timeframe may be impeded, interrupted or curtailed by a range of factors.
For example, the request to export beef to the USA had been going through a “Rule Making Process” of the USA for almost 10 years and had not even been concluded when South Africa reported its 2011 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in KZN. Following this, South Africa had been told to start the process from the beginning. With negotiations, the Department sent a reminder shortly after the initial communication if there was no response from the trade partner. If after one (or two) reminders there is still no response, the file is closed unless there is an indication of interest from the local industry.

During the 2019/20 financial year, the following new markets had been opened:

  • Poultry meat to the UAE
  • Sheep to Kuwait
  • Beef to Oman
  • Live cattle, sheep and goats to Qatar
  • Caprine (goat) genetic material to Brazil

A number of markets were re-opened following the January 2019 FMD outbreak, the
biggest by volume and revenue being:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, dairy to neighboring and African countries
  • Beef to China, UAE, Jordan
  • Wool to China

The following were in the final stages of negotiations:

  • Saudi Arabia – beef
  • Malaysia – beef, wool
  • China – fish meal
  • Brazil – genetic material

From 2018 to the present, the following new markets had been opened:

  • Bulk reefer shipments of citrus fruit to China
  • Lucerne export to China
  • Apples to Taiwan
  • Citrus to US
  • Blueberry propagation material to Peru
  • Revised phytosanitary import requirements for Table Grapes to Vietnam

The following Export Protocols were in the final stages of negotiations
(possible conclusion in 2020):

Protocol for Exports of Pears to China (requires signing between the two countries)
Protocol for Exports of Avocados to Japan (technical negotiations concluded, awaiting approval by the Japanese  authorities)
Revision of the Citrus Protocol to include lemons (change of temperature protocol)
Protocol for Export of Citrus to Philippines (technical negotiations concluded, awaiting approval by the Philippine Authorities)

The following Export Protocols required more detailed research and negotiations:

Table grapes to Mexico (pest surveillance)
Table Grapes to Philippines (negotiations on the Pest Risk Analyses)
Avocado to Taiwan (information on pest occurring in South Africa, submitted)
Apples to Thailand (Pest list of apples communicated at end of 2019)
Table grapes to South Korea (Research/ surveillance on quarantine pests)

Challenges with market access

Sanitary and phytosanitary measures:

The animal and plant health status of the country, and the ability to detect, control and eradicate outbreaks.

Resources:

Countries evaluate the competency based on the available resources.

Structure of Veterinary Services:

Distinct break in the chain of command (provincialisation), worsened in some provinces by a further ‘matrix system’.

Reciprocal market access requests:

Expanding SA’s export markets equally incurred reciprocal requests from other countries to export their products of interest to South Africa. Such requests might not necessarily be limited to the agricultural sector but might be influenced by trade negotiation requests and developments in unrelated sectors.

The use of SPS measures as technical barriers to trade:

SPS measures had to be scientifically justified. However, there was an observation these measures are unjustifiably used as technical barriers to trade in global trade.

The nature of negotiations

Market access requests were mostly dealt with one commodity at a time.
           
DiscussionMr M Montwedi (EFF) wanted to know what the status quo was regarding the export of lucerne to China because he feared established farmers were going to export lucerne to China which would not give new entrants a chance to be mainstream role players. He further commented he would like the building of a facility by ARC to be completed sooner than 2024 because the facility would be aimed at addressing the problem of outbreaks.

Mr Ramasodi stated China was not the only market the Department was dealing with. There were other markets the Department was trading with which were not as complex as China. He said there had been a late approval from China regarding preferred producers.

Ms N Mahlo (ANC) wanted to understand if compensation was given to a farmer or producer when his/her animals had been culled. She further suggested there was a need to strengthen the campaign of closing auctions through local municipalities and constituency offices so that people could be informed and not become overly worried.

Minister Didiza explained there had been a debate internationally. If the state were to go with culling, it would have been forced to compensate. Unfortunately, there has been no budget allocated for doing that. Therefore, culling would not have been the best option under the current economic climate in the country.

Dr Maja added there was a huge food security implication that should be kept in mind. The country was not in a position to burn meat infected with a virus that was not killing people. Cattle did recover after an illness.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) indicated the Department should think of the job losses that had happened in the sugar cane and poultry industry. Most sugar cane producers were moving towards macadamia nut production because it required less labour. He also wanted to find out what the government was planning to do concerning the monitoring and control of the movement of livestock in the light of FMD challenges. He pointed out the road between Jozini and Hluhluwe was not seeing much monitoring of fences. Even in Limpopo, where FMD was prevalent there had been no gates and fences in other areas to monitor the movement of livestock.

Minister Didiza indicated the Department had looked at the job losses from the poultry and sugarcane industry. The measures the Department has proposed regarding sugar were going to stabilise the problem. Tariffs alone could not deal with these challenges. The Department was suggesting there should be other ways of looking at the sugarcane, other things that could be derived or developed from it, and not rely on sugar only.

Mr N Capa (ANC) remarked he could not understand why the University of Pretoria had the monopoly in the training of veterinarians. He said that monopoly should be done away with in order to start to implement what the Minister has proposed – the opening of a veterinary faculty at another university. He wanted to find out if there was any other method of controlling and ensuring the FMD was not continuing to spread.

Minister Didiza explained when the Department had experienced the outbreak in January and November 2019, it had convened a meeting of all stakeholders, including red meat producers, auctioneers, and farmers’ unions, to decide on what to be done. It was at that meeting that all parties had agreed to go back to containment measures agreed on in January. The meeting had been divided into three teams: technical, trade, and communication. The Department’s decision had not been unilateral. In terms of communication, the Department had an extensive communication programme where it employed community radio stations and newspapers, especially in Limpopo. Farmers’ unions tried as well to communicate with their members not to move their animals. She also stated the Department had engaged the SANDF and SAPS. Affected provinces had responded swiftly even though the challenges still existed. She further noted concurrence was a challenge. The Department had to manage the provinces because they were the implementing agents. The budget had never been enough. However, the Department received a positive response from the Limpopo Economic Affairs Department regarding fencing of the FMD zones. A discussion was needed to see if the concurrence arrangement was working for the sector because the MEC could not be instructed on what to do. Provinces had executive powers.

Ms M Tlhape (ANC) proposed that the training of veterinarians should be accelerated. She suggested the Department should find a way to upgrade the agripreneur training given to students at North West University to include veterinary studies. She wanted to understand why the ASF was seen as a socio-economic challenge rather than a veterinary problem.

Mr Ramasodi stated the upgrading of training was one area the Department could look at. Currently, the Department was engaging with the DHET on where to open another veterinary science faculty at some of the universities that offer agriculture, especially those that have applied for this opportunity.

Dr Maja explained the ASF was a socio-economic problem because it was necessary to destroy the affected pigs. The virus goes into the head of the pig and survives for a very long time in the animal unlike with FMD. Once the pig is affected, it destroys 95% of the animal. She further highlighted that all vaccines are not 100% effective. A vaccine only manages the impact of the disease. By vaccinating the level of the virus the animal would shed is decreased, causing the animal to produce optimally while reducing job losses.

Ms T Breedt (FF+) commented that roadblocks for searching cars and trucks were not carried out in some provinces to ensure meat products were not taken to other provinces. She asked how the Department was going to ensure farmers were not deeply affected by the auction bans because auctions in Northern Cape had been closed. She also suggested the Department should ensure its entities were working together to make certain China was not outsmarting SA because it was involved in some big agriculture projects in Ethiopia.

Dr Maja stated the temporary lifting of the auction ban had been a positive move. Buyers were usually not known they came during auctions and they did not know where the animals they bought came from.

Mr N Masipa (DA) appealed to the Minister to lift the ban on auctions in the FMD unaffected areas so that farmers could service their debts. The only thing the Department needed to do was to tighten law enforcement.

Ms A Steyn (DA) commented she was not sure what the Department was going to do to assist farmers in fighting the diseases because control measures did not seem to be in place. The banning of auctions frustrated a lot of people because people felt they were responsible for the diseases. She further asked if the Brucellosis vaccine has been taken out of the market.

Dr Maja said South Africa had developed protocols in line with the OIE strategies. South Africa’s strategy was in the final draft and would be circulated to the stakeholders for comment, and vaccination would happen in the next quarter.

The Chairperson wanted to find out about the partners the Department was working with in fighting FMD; and asked about the negative impact the FAW had on the grain industry and small-scale farmer He also enquired about research that had been done to combat Citrus Black Spot; wanted an update on the export protocols on BRICS countries and asked if there was an engagement with the Arab League of Emirates.

Minister Didiza explained that engagement with BRICS and other regional blocks was at country level, country to country. The opportunities had been identified. When it came to China, you deal with one commodity at a time before moving to another commodity for exporting. The Department was looking at different ways of dealing with these matters.

Dr Jaftha informed the Committee that the limited budget ha been a challenge in the fight against FAW. Support had been given to smallholders in terms of ensuring pesticides were available. FAO has offered the country several training programmes so that farmers could spot the disease because it required on-going surveillance. Some of the budget had been received from the Disaster Management Fund. He further stated the Citrus Black Spot has not been entirely eradicated. There was a need for constant surveillance to slow the disease, so that it did not continue to grow in the area. It has been an evolutionary virus.

Mr Ramasodi made it clear the Department had been embarking on many FMD initiatives with the private sector. Work on the FMD was being seen as an opportunity for livestock identification and traceability system. This system had been practised in the United Kingdom.

Dr Maja added that animal identification was raised with the industry although it has been resisting. Now there were positive signs because the industry has been warming to the idea of animal identification. She further indicated the SAT 2 FMD vaccine was bought in Botswana. SAT 2 was overpowering animals in the field, but in the laboratory it is well contained and does not overpower the animal.

Ms N Mahlo (ANC) wanted to find out if the management of auctions was a veterinary services function because four auctions happened before the FMD outbreak was realised.

Dr Maja indicated the monitoring of auctions had never been the mandate of the Veterinary Sservices. The auctioneers and the industry have drafted proposals that would be discussed with the Department regarding the management of auctions.

Mr Masipa suggested the Committee should invite the fruit industry to brief in on the challenges it was facing.

The Chairperson said a number of stakeholders, including the citrus industry, would be invited to the strategic planning later in the year.

Ms Steyn proposed that the budget for the disaster should be discussed with the Department; and wanted to establish how long it would take for other countries to conclude export protocols because in SA it takes 10 to 15 years.

Dr Jaftha explained that market access protocols were very complicated because there were policies involved. For instance, the request to export avocado to the US was done in 2008, but nothing has been concluded yet. It all depended on the politics of the day and the amount of research that keeps on going back and forth.

The Chairperson indicated the Department had stated there was no budget for the disasters. Whenever the outbreak happened, the Department has to engage with National Treasury for funds.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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