ATC140313: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the Oversight visit to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) in Pretoria, Gauteng Province, dated 11 March 2014.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development


The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, having undertaken an oversight visit to the ARC and OBP in the Gauteng Province from 4 to 5 February 2014, reports as follows:

1. Background

The Agricultural Research Council (hereinafter referred to as ARC) and the Onderstepoort Biological Products (hereinafter referred to as OBP) are public entities that reports directly to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (hereinafter referred to as the Department). The ARC was established in terms of Section 2 of the Agricultural Research Act, 1990 (Act No. 86 of 1990). It is the principal agricultural research institution in the county that provides agricultural research and technology development to support the agricultural community. The OBP was established in terms of the Onderstepoort Biological Products Incorporation Act, 1999 (Act No. 19 of 1999) and its mandate is to manufacture veterinary vaccines and related products to prevent and control animal diseases that impact on food security, human health and livelihoods.

For the past two financial years, i.e. 2011/12 and 2012/13 the Portfolio Committee observed that there was little collaboration between the ARC and OBP on research activities on livestock diseases and vaccine improvement; and the Committee was particularly concerned with outbreaks of diseases of economic importance that sometimes lead to the banning of South African products in some export markets, e.g. foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza, citrus black spot, etc. The Committee also observed that both entities, the OBP being a national key point, were also not getting sufficient Government funding to address challenges associated with outbreaks of diseases. Based on these observations, the Portfolio Committee recommended that the Department ensures that there is collaboration between the ARC and OBP on livestock disease-related programmes; and to consider increasing funding for the ARC and OBP, particularly for the refurbishment of research facilities and aged infrastructure.

1.1. Objective of the Visit

Part of the oversight responsibilities of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries over the work of the Department and its entities is to examine the Strategic Plans and associated Annual Performance Plans (APPs), as well as budgets of the Department and its six entities. In the 2010/11 financial year, additional funding was allocated to the ARC for the establishment of a state of the art foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) Facility for research on, and the manufacturing of, FMD vaccines. In 2012/13, the OBP received funding from National Treasury for upgrading and modernising the vaccine manufacturing facilities. The Committee took a resolution to undertake an oversight visit to the ARC and OBP to oversee progress in the establishment of the FMD Facility at the ARC, the vaccine manufacturing facilities at OBP and further progress regarding other Committee recommendations as outlined in the Committee’s 2011/12 and 2012/13 Budget Review and Recommendation Reports (BRRRs).

1.2. Delegation

The delegation of the Committee composed of Mr M Johnson, ANC (Chairperson and Leader of the delegation); Ms NM Twala , ANC; Ms RE Nyalungu , ANC, Ms ME Pilusa-Mosoane , ANC and Ms A Steyn, DA. The delegation was supported by Ms A Kakaza, Committee Secretary; Ms N Mgxashe , Content Advisor, Ms N Qwabe , Committee Researcher (Agriculture and Forestry) and Ms N Diya , Committee Assistant.


The Agricultural Research Council (ARC)

The following officials were in attendance: Agricultural Research Council (ARC) : Dr SR Moephuli , Chief Executive Officer; Dr MS Jeenah , Executive Director: Research and Technology Development; Dr L Heath, Programme Manager; Dr P Majiwa , Programme Manager (ARC-OVI); Dr BA Lubisi , Project Manager-Virology (ARC-OVI); Dr J Rees, Head: Biotechnology Platform (ARC-OVI); Dr M Mulumba , Research Institute Manager (ARC-OVI); Isaac Ntshauba , Public Relations Officer (ARC-OVI); Edzani Nephalela , Public Relations Intern (ARC-OVI); Benjamin Molefe, Financial Manager (ARC-OVI); Dr M Maila , Research Institute Manage: Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ARC-ISCW); Dr D Turner, Programme Manger (ARC-ISCW; Dr M Tsubo , Programme Manager (ARC-ISCW); Dr GJ Chirima , Acting Programme Manager (ARC-ISCW); Dr E Mwendera , Programme Manager (ARC-ISCW); Mr J Malherbe, Researcher (ARC-ISCW); Christien Engelbrecht , Researcher (ARC-ISCW); Dr B Greyling , Programme Manager: Beef Cattle Improvement: Animal Production Institute (API); Prof M Scholtz , Specialist Researcher: Animal Production Institute (API); Mr H Weepener , Programme Manager (ARC-ISCW); Dr M Moeletsi , Programme Manager (ARC-ISCW); Dr A Magadlela , Research Institute Manager (ARC-API); Dr S Venter, Programme Manager (ARC-API), Dr I du Plooy Programme Manager: Vegetable and Ornamental Plants Institute; Dr P Adebola , Programme Manger: Vegetable and Ornamental Plants Institute; Mr D Motiang , Manager: ARC-API; Prof TL Nedambale , Programme Manager (ARC-API); Dr B Nengovhela , Senior Researcher (ARC-API); Dr N Maiwashe , Programme Manager (ARC-API); Moks Mothobela , Manager (API). National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) : Dr BM Modisane , Chief Director: Animal Production & Health (APH); Dr S Mkhize, Director: Provincial & State Owned Entities (SOEs) Performance Monitoring; Mr MJ Mamabolo, Director: Animal Production; Ms Dikeledi Mabogoane , Monitoring and Evaluation Officer; Mr S Kgatla , Principal Communication Officer; Ms N Mafani , Parliamentary Coordinator: Office of the Director-General.

Overview of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI)

The delegation was welcomed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr SR Moephuli . After a brief introduction the CEO gave a background on the ARC including its mission and vision, as well as the OVI. Dr Moephuli mentioned that the ARC-OVI does needs-driven research, technology transfer and also provides diagnostic services. He highlighted that there is no competition between OVI and OBP but the two institutes work in collaboration. The OVI does vaccine development research and also manufactures a limited number of vaccines as part of its research activities. He mentioned that the ARC-OVI strives to be a world-class veterinary research institute in providing scientific support to the South African agricultural sector.

2.1 The overview of the ARC - Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI) activities, achievements and challenges

Dr L Heath, the Programme Manager for OVI presented the overview of the ARC-OVI activities, achievements and challenges. He mentioned that the research focus areas of the Institute are on new generation vaccine development; molecular epidemiology and diagnostics; food, feed and veterinary public health; transboundary animal diseases and parasites, vectors and vector-borne diseases.

He mentioned that some of the challenges experienced by the ARC are increased competition from private commercial diagnostic companies; recruitment and retention of technical staff; maintenance and expansion of infrastructure; as well as increased requirement for specialised infrastructure (e.g. mad cow disease laboratories and keeping the Biological Safety Level 3).

Dr Heath highlighted the development of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine factory as one of the achievements. He said the ARC’s vaccine facility at Ondertepoort was built in the early 1980s as a national strategic facility for the production of vaccines, diagnosis and research on transboundary animal diseases. He mentioned that the FMD vaccine production declined over the past decades and was suspended in 2005. In 2010, the National Treasury approved funding of R220 million to establish a new state-of-the-art FMD vaccine factory. The project has three objectives, namely:

§ The development of a production process based on suspension cell culture technologies;

§ The design of a vaccine factory to accommodate the production process; and

§ The construction of a new factory.

Dr Heath reported that to date a production process has been developed that is capable of consistently producing FMD vaccine antigens that will be used in the formulation of the FMD vaccine. He further reported that the design of the new factory is underway with construction anticipated to commence in July 2014. He said the ARC has established a training programme to develop the Human Resource (HR) capacity that is required in operating the new facility and eight students were enrolled in the programme during 2013; and the ARC is planning to develop downstream processing capabilities to maximise vaccine output. Future activities include the production of FMD vaccine that will be supplied to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for use in the 2015 national vaccination campaign. The construction and validation of the new factory is expected to be completed in 2016 and the new factory will have sufficient capacity to meet the national and regional vaccine requirements.

Veterinary Diagnostics at ARC-OVI

Dr P Majiwa , the Manager for Molecular Epidemiology and Diagnostics Programme at ARC-OVI explained that the purpose of the diagnostic services is to improve and apply routine and novel diagnostic tests as required by clients. The tests reveal the presence of an agent that is responsible for a particular disease in an animal, identify if an animal has been exposed to an agent responsible for a particular disease, and reveal presence of contaminants in food or food products derived from animals. Dr Majiwa reported that approximately 270 different tests are done by competent technical staff under professional supervision on different sample types; and the exact numbers of tests vary with seasons throughout each year. He mentioned that some of the industries that are supported by the Institute are the red meat (beef, mutton, and embryos), poultry (chickens and ostriches), pigs, wildlife and tourism (buffalo relocation etc.), as well as companion and work animals (horses, dogs and cats).

Overview of the Biotechnology Platform

Dr J Rees, the Head of the Biotechnology Platform gave a brief overview of the Biotechnology Platform. The presentation focused on the services provided and the research facilities model that includes the unit, core services, development group, research teams within the Platform and research teams at Institutes. Dr Rees mentioned that the ARC’s Biotechnology Platform at OVI has the biggest DANA Sequencer in Africa that has the ability to sequence data for 10 human genomes every 6 days. However, the equipment will be sequencing livestock and plant genomes including livestock pathogen genomics and plant pathogen genomics.

The delegation was taken for a tour of the ARC-OVI facilities. The facilities tour also included visits to the largest tick museum in the world, the Gertrude Theiler Tick Museum and the Monument of Dr Jotello Soga, who was the fourth son of Reverend Tiyo Soga. Dr Jotello Soga was the first black veterinarian in South Africa and a pioneer in veterinary research.

2.2 ARC - Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ISCW)

Dr M Maila , the Research Institute Manager (RIM) from ISCW welcomed the delegation and gave an overview of the Institute. He mentioned that the vision of the Institute is to promote the sustainable management and optimum use of agricultural natural resources, soil, climate and water through basic and action oriented research; technology development; technology transfer and scientific services. He mentioned that programmes and scientific services to facilitate the mission of the ARC-ISCW mission include Agro climatology, Geo Informatics, Soil and Water Sciences as well as scientific services such as climate monitoring and advisories, analytical services and advisories and land suitability studies. Dr Maila reported that the ARC-ISCW is responsible for the country’s climate and crop modelling and is managing 600 weather stations throughout the country.

He reported that the activities of the ARC-ISCW’s Agro climatology Programme include climate monitoring, climate and crop modelling, weather dissemination (through radio, television, cellular phones) and scientific advisories, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission monitoring and climate change adaptation and mitigation. He mentioned that the ISCW has been given the responsibility by DAFF to do research on climate adaptation. He reported that the Institute’s Geo Informatics Programme is involved in using satellite imagery to predict crop yields, disease or pest outbreaks, crop stress, early warnings, water quality and land/crop suitability.

Dr Maila further reported that the ARC-ISCW’s Soil Science Programme is involved in providing soil information and doing land evaluation for a variety of clients ranging from commercial to small-scale farmers. The Institute’s Water Science Programme is involved in water quality management in agro-ecological systems, efficient utilisation of water in rainfed and irrigated agricultural systems, forestry and livestock production systems, sustainable management of water resources in wetlands to enhance ecosystem health and functioning, assessment of climate change impacts on water and agro-ecological systems. He also reported that the ARC-ISCW has an Analytical Services Laboratory for soil and plant analyses, water analyses and specialist inorganic/biological analyses.

Dr Maila mentioned that challenges and major internal constraints at ISCW are:

  • human capacity i.e. lack of critical mass of scientists to deliver on focus areas;
  • lack of funding to effectively run the climate monitoring infrastructure;
  • updating and maintenance of the soil information system;
  • maintenance of analytical services laboratory infrastructure;
  • lack of land and buildings; and
  • limited funding for research.

Agricultural Geo-referenced Information System (AGIS)

Dr George Chirima , the Acting Programme Manager for AGIS explained that AGIS is a collaborative computer system initiative between DAFF, provincial Departments of Agriculture and the ARC. The purpose of AGIS is to provide vast amounts of agricultural information to the farmers such as soils, weeds, locust outbreaks, invasive plants, etc. He reported that AGIS also provides information through dynamic maps to the general public, the agricultural sector and decision makers via the internet. The reported key challenges of the system were that it has become a large project that needs continuous effort to keep it up to date; limited funding from DAFF; and several private companies also setting up parallel systems. He concluded that despite the challenges, there is a need for an enhanced and collaborative Government-funded system, as rural and developing farmers may never get access to expensive privately-owned information systems.

Soil Science Programme: Land Use and Mapping

The Programme Manager, Dr Dave Turner briefed the delegation on the Soil Science Programme and field applications. The presentation focused on soil classification, soil suitability assessments, soil databases (soil profile information system, land type information system, text and spatial maps, detailed digital map information, derived products applications, etc.). Dr Turner also highlighted the land type maps inventory such as spatial and property components, and inventory based descriptions with soils of different potentials in one area. He made an example of application products from soil and land information in the Eastern Cape Province. Dr Turner also mentioned the Agricultural Master Plan, which is a soil mapping of agricultural land project, through which they run the Agri -Parks Project that is commissioned by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in five provinces, namely, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (14 District Municipalities in total).

The following challenges and future needs in the Soil Science Programme were reported:

  • Progressive soil coverage of high potential agricultural land at detailed scales.
  • Revitalisation of the ARC-wide Natural Resource Information Systems (soil, climate).
  • Revised Business Model with Parliamentary Grant and External Income
  • Revised perspective on Intellectual Property and Information Accessibility to the public.
  • Succession Planning and Training of staff in soil science and information system applications.

Soil and Water Management

Dr Emmanuel Mwendera , the Programme Manager for Soil and Water Management reported that the key national water issues and challenges in the country include limited water quantity, increasing and competing demand for water, water pollution, food insecurity, wetland degradation, impact of climate variability and change and water governance issues. He said the impact of climate change in the country result in increased water demand, reduces water availability, reduces agricultural production and food security. He highlighted some agricultural water management projects that have been developed to address the water through the Conservation Agriculture and Rainwater Harvesting for Improved Productivity and Food Security Programme. He mentioned that through the programme, rainfall water that is normally lost through runoff is now collected and used productively for crop production. He reported that more than 1 400 households in 42 rural communities in the Free State, 8 rural communities in the Eastern Cape and 19 rural communities in the Limpopo Provinces have improved their food security by adopting the Rainwater Harvesting technology.

Climate Change and Communities

Dr M Tsubo , the Programme Manager for Climate Change and Communities reported about a case study that is funded by DAFF on mitigation and adaptation to climate variability and change in the Thabo Mofutsanyane District Municipality in eastern Free State. He said the main objectives of the project are to introduce and encourage agricultural practices that are potentially capable of mitigating climate change and adapting to adverse effects of climate change, to raise awareness and conduct training on climate variability and climate change in rural agricultural communities and to introduce and encourage farmers to shift to conservation agriculture practices with the emphasis on minimal mechanical soil disturbance and diversified cropping. He reported that approximately 25 youth from surrounding project areas were trained and hired to install the biodigester systems for the project.

Dr Tsubo mentioned that the Project assisted farmers to reduce the impact of agroclimatological risks on their productivity through the use of agrometeorology information. The Project also assisted ISCW to develop a mechanism for the dissemination of weather and climate forecasts to farmers to support their daily activities and to advise farmers on the day-to-day management of their fields based on the weather and climate information. A Climate Awareness Campaign was also held in secondary schools in the Free State Province to improve learner understanding of weather and climate as they are taught in Geography. A range of jobs and other economic developing opportunities were created through the project such as the use of local labourers for biodigester installation; procurement of local caterers during project gathering and events, use of local tractors and equipment, use of local communities to maintain Project trials (for example, with weeding) and use of local labour in fencing the trial plots.

Drought Management and Monitoring

Mr Johan Malherbe, a researcher at the ARC-ISCW reported that the ARC supports regional drought monitoring initiatives through the maintenance of a network of climate monitoring stations, maintenance of the database of coarse resolution data and management of the development of drought monitoring tool for the South African Development Community (SADC). He reported that the ARC-ISCW’s Drought Management and Monitoring Group produces situation maps and present them to the National Disaster Management Committee and also contributes to the National Agrometeorological Committee. He mentioned that information is also disseminated via newsletters to users in Agriculture, Hydrology and the Insurance business.

2.3 ARC - Animal Production Institute (API)

Dr MA Magadlela , the Research and Technology Manager for the ARC-API, welcomed the delegation. He mentioned that the API conducts basic and applied research in focal areas such as animal nutrition and pasture science, animal breeding and improvement (conventional and biotechnological tools to assist reproduction), product processing (meat and milk) and food safety. He mentioned that the API’s strategic research focus is informed by the strategic goals of the ARC and national priorities. He reported that the API is also a custodian of certain national assets and services such as the National Data Bank for stock and game identification.

Kaonafatso ya Dikgomo

Mr Dan Motiang , the Manager for Kaoanafatso ya Dikgomo ( KyD ) Project reported that the project aims to accelerate access of smallholder livestock farmers to the mainstream industry. He reported that 40% of the project’s herd is owned by smallholder farmers with 1 200 participants from 2011/12 financial year. He reported that from January 2014, there were approximately 5 772 participants in the project including women and youth. He highlighted the 2013 Project Award Winner who started with 10 cattle and now owns a herd of 150 cattle and has improved the herd’s calving rate from less than 50% to 88%. Mr Motiang reported that the ARC, with assistance from Provincial Departments of Agriculture, assists farmers to hold village livestock auctions. He mentioned that the KyD project aims to provide experiential learning to communities surrounding projects; and expand livestock trade for exportation.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)

Professor Lucky Nedambale , the Programme Manager for Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART) reported that the objective of the ART project is to introduce genetically superior cattle through ART technology, introduce a model which is meant to empower individual rural farmers to participate in the existing modern beef industry value chain, to support rural farmers in managing animal health (to reduce mortality and improve fertility), to use deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to verify parentage and identification (to deter stock theft and for recording and improvement schemes) and to build capacity and skills of farmers and professionals who support emerging farmers. He also highlighted that the focus of the Project is on the Nguni cattle breed, which is an indigenous hardy breed.

Poultry Enterprise Development

Dr Baldwin Nengovhela , the Project Manager, reported that the ARC-API jointly with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform have established an integrated community-based and community-owned poultry value chain for rural households in all nine provinces. He said the Project started on the 1 st April 2013 and has a life span of 36 months and its objectives are to:

  • Help establish new village broiler and layer value chains;
  • Document experiences in village broiler and layer value chains;
  • Contribute in the improvement of rural livelihoods and entrepreneurship, as well as economic growth in rural areas;
  • Conduct training in hatchery, rearing, feed manufacturing and abattoir management within village systems;
  • Improve financial risks of village broiler farming and the rest of the value chain in South Africa;
  • Help establish and refine new village broiler-abattoir models;
  • Ensure complete production cycles for the continuous supply of the market;
  • Organise the groups into cooperatives or any legal business entity;
  • Pilot vertical integration by smallholder entities;
  • Create a sustainable support system and platform for solving problems for the beneficiaries of the projects through training and mentorship; and
  • Create job opportunities for para -professionals and NARYSEC.

Dr Nengovhela reported that the Project targets poor and unemployed people in the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) sites. The total number of beneficiaries was reported as 1 368 consisting of 1 008 rural and military veterans, 180 para -professionals and 180 National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC). He further reported that there is currently one site in each province and the plan is to expand the project to 73 sites per province. He mentioned that the project’s concept is to establish in each community, a feed mill, layer houses (egg production), broiler houses (meat production), a hatchery and an abattoir with an outlet shop.

Livestock Genomic Research Selection

Professor Norman Maiwashe , the Programme Manager for Livestock Genomic Selection commented that as the number of people that need to be fed is increasing and the natural resource base is deteriorating, the only solution is to increase the output per unit of production; meaning more beef from fewer cattle. He explained that an increase in output can be done through identification (selection) and breeding of fertile and high producing animals (adaptation). He further explained that the identification of superior breeding stock is done through Conventional Selection (CS), in which the ARC played a prominent role in the research that led to its successful implementation in the country. He said the other option is Genomic Selection (GS), which is done through the selection of breeding animals through their DNA. Prof Maiwashe reported that the Genomics Programme in the ARC is still at its infancy and presents a new opportunity for accelerating efficiency of animal production. He said although the ARC is investing heavily in Genomic Research and capacity development, the Programme is expensive and needs substantial funding. He further stated that support from public and private institutions is essential for successful implementation of Genomic Selection for the benefit of South African livestock farmers. He concluded by stating that South Africa cannot afford not to invest in Genomic Research since that might have a negative impact on the country’s global competiveness.

The Animal Improvement Schemes

Dr MA Magadlela , the Research and Technology Manager at ARC-API reported that the Animal Improvement Schemes Project has been under the stewardship of the ARC since the 1 st April 1995. The Project utilised the ARC’s research and development and technology transfer products, which have resulted in improved productivity and ability of livestock farmers to monitor and even control the production processes of their herds and flocks due to a greater understanding of principles needed for sustainable production. He said participation in the Improvement Schemes has thus enhanced efficiency of farm animal production while promoting sustainable resource use to improve the general competitiveness of the whole livestock industry in the country. Dr Magadlela also mentioned that the research conducted by the ARC in support of the animal recording and improvement schemes has been highly successful. He also noted that no successful animal recording and improvement system can exist without sound research and development closely linked to the transfer of technology that is derived from such research.

2.4 ARC – Vegetable and Ornamental Plants Institute (VOPI)

Sweet Potato Research Programme

Dr P Adebola , the Programme Manager for the Sweet Potato Research Programme at ARC- Vegetable and Ornamental Plants Institute (VOPI) informed the delegation that the mandate of VOPI, which is based at Roodeplaat (Pretoria), is to carry out needs-driven and environmentally friendly research, technology development and technology transfer of commercial vegetables, African/traditional/indigenous vegetables, medicinal plants and indigenous bulbous plants. He further reported that the primary aim of the Sweet Potato Research Programme is the breeding of improved varieties; promotion of the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) for addressing malnutrition; establishment of nurseries for vine dissemination and establishment of small-price enterprises. He mentioned that the sweet potato is one of the seven major staple crops of the world and feeds millions of people in the developing world. He said in South Africa the sweet potato is a popular crop amongst resource-poor farmers and is also grown commercially for the fresh and export markets. He further explained that the crop is adaptable to a broad range of agro-ecological conditions and can therefore, be grown in all provinces in South Africa and in some areas throughout the year.

Indigenous / Traditional Vegetables and Crops

Dr I du Plooy , the Programme Manager for Crop Science commented that contribution of local foods to reduce health risks has always been recognised as part of indigenous knowledge and part of the cultural system. He said growing recognition globally on the role of local nutraceuticals and functional foods in improving the health of people and the growing nutraceutical market worldwide has made it more important to identify, investigate and extract natural food additives and health promoting substances from local traditional food crops. He reported that the ARC is collaborating with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and other relevant stakeholders to develop nutraceuticals and functional foods as products from crops traditionally used by rural communities in South Africa.

Training and Support Model for Smallholder Farmers

Dr SL Venter, the Research and Technology Manager for the ARC - VOPI gave an overview of VOPI’s Training and Support Model for Smallholder Farmers Programme. She reported that models and strategies were developed and implemented for sustainable livelihoods in support of smallholder farmers and rural development, these include:

  • Sustainable livelihoods model;
  • Enterprise development and Agri -village models and strategies;
  • Training and knowledge transfer models including training courses;
  • Demonstration trials, demonstration production system, on-farm training;
  • Support and multiplier models, high value crops and niche market models;
  • Small-scale agricultural production models and decision making support models;
  • Food, nutrition and crop based models;
  • Urban agriculture model and strategy;
  • Production and technology transfer manuals and information brochures; and
  • Information and farmers’ days’ model.

She mentioned that all models include community mobilisation, situation analysis, baseline surveys, integration of new adapted technology and knowledge, monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment phases.

Visit to the Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP)

The following officials were in attendance : Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) : Dr ST Cornelius, Chief Executive Officer (CEO); Mr B Nthangeni , Chief Scientific Officer; Dr T Smit , Chief Operations Officer; Ms Z Mobeng , General Manger: Legal, Compliance & Company Secretary; Pieter M Pieterson , Quality Executive; Ms Mpume Ramutle , Human Resource Executive; Mr M Gololo , Chief Financial Officer and Mr P Pieter, Quality Executive. National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) : Dr BM Modisane , Chief Director: Animal Production & Health (APH); Dr S Mkhize, Director: Provincial & SOEs Performance Monitoring; Mr MJ Mamabolo, Director: Animal Production; Ms Dikeledi Mabogoane , Monitoring and Evaluation Officer; Mr S Kgatla , Principal Communication Officer; Ms N Mafani , Parliamentary Coordinator: Office of the Director-General.

2.5 Overview of the Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP)

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr ST Cornelius gave a historical background on the establishment of the OBP and an overview of the Institute’s mandate. He mentioned that OBP was part of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute (OVRI), which was established in 1908 and included the ARC’s OVI and the OBP. He reported that the animal vaccine manufacturing facility at the then OVRI was established in 1968. In 1992, vaccine manufacturing was separated from the Research Institute, which later became the ARC’s OVI and the OBP was launched as an SOE responsible for animal vaccine manufacturing. He said the OBP remains the only manufacturer of animal vaccines in the country and other suppliers import vaccines. In his presentation, Dr Cornelius mentioned that OBP has very old and outdated infrastructure and equipment, which constraints the entity’s ability to meet the demand for vaccines. He reported that a presentation has been made to DAFF and the National Treasury for additional funding to manufacture orphan vaccines (i.e. the vaccines that OBP has to manufacture at their own cost for public good). He further reported that OBP needs approximately R1.2 billion to upgrade and modernise its facilities and have been allocated R492 million by National Treasury for the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) period.

Dr Cornelius mentioned that the OBP’s product portfolio constitutes bacterial vaccine products, viral vaccine products and other products such as frozen infective blood that is manufactured in conjunction with the ARC-OVI and antiserum diagnostic reagents such as dourine and rose Bengal. The following threats and constraints were reported by the CEO:

  • Negative perception of the OBP brand (RVF);
  • Products not available due to equipment breakdown and old outdated production processes, which causes unreliable supply;
  • No innovation meaning that OBP cannot afford new technology to develop new products;
  • Budget constraints – limited market and growth potential;
  • OBP is a commercial entity but also carries within its portfolio, products that are earmarked for public good and product availability to fulfil orders is a major constraint mainly due to technology and equipment constraints;
  • Factors affecting production and sales (market share and sales revenue), which are also factors affecting the activities within the company; and
  • Non-GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) status – currently operation under ISO (International Standards of Operation).

For quality and safety of vaccines, the CEO informed the delegation that the development, production, testing and supply of all vaccines produced by OBP is based on accepted laboratory practices established by International Standards of Operation (ISO 9001:2008) and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines, and in accordance with specific guidelines and regulations that are established by the office of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). He mentioned that in addition, vaccines are developed, produced and supplied to comply with the legislative requirements for the registration of these products in South Africa as stated in the Fertilisers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act, 1947 (Act No. 36 of 1947), as amended. He further mentioned that to achieve the quality objective in a reliable manner, the company has comprehensively designed and correctly implemented a Quality Management System that includes quality control and quality assurance.

Dr Cornelius also presented proposals to strengthen OBP, which include:

  • U pgrading of facilities, equipment and processes as a matter of urgency;
  • Improved production efficiencies, cost reduction and competitiveness;
  • Access to more markets;
  • Support by Government to ensure sustainable vaccine supply for the benefit of the country (i.e. annual transfer payment);
  • I ncreased collaboration, technology transfer and technology acquisition (locally and internationally);
  • Increased product range to offer more combination vaccines; and
  • Recognition of OBP by DAFF as an important role player in terms of disease management and control, training and improved access of products to smallholder/emerging farmers.

Dr Cornelius concluded that in order for OBP to be able to effectively and efficiently carry out its mandate (animal vaccine manufacturing to prevent and control animal diseases that impact food security and public health) and to remain a viable and sustainable business entity, the following is required:

· Investment into upgrading and /or establishing new facilities.

· Stronger relationships need to be built with provincial and national Government.

· Vaccination/health programmes driven by provinces and private veterinarians.

· Improved communication and interaction between all role players.

· Contingency plan for vaccine reserves to be considered and supported.

The delegation was taken to a tour of OBP facilities and laboratories.

3. Committee Observations

The Committee made the following observations during the oversight visit:

  • While the ARC is doing some work on smallholder farmers, due to lack of research funding from Government and the apparent need for more focus on smallholder farmers, most of the ARC’s research activities are still focused at the commercial sector as it is able to pay for the services.
  • The OBP, as a National Key Point company, was not getting sufficient funding from Government to sustain itself.
  • The OBP is not just a profit making company; it also provides services to farmers in the country and manufactures orphan vaccines (i.e. those vaccines that are produced by OBP at their own cost for the public good).
  • Some provincial departments and local governments do not fully support OBP by exclusively buying their vaccines for distribution to respective farmers in provinces.
  • Both the ARC and OBP do not have restraint of trade policies that form part of their personnel retention strategies to prevent loss of expertise.
  • The Committee supported the OBP’s initiative of having a day’s workshop to ensure that vaccines are available to farmers when they need them.

4. Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) ensures that:

· Extra funding is allocated to the ARC for the development of research infrastructure.

· Additional funding is allocated to the ARC to do an analysis of the country’s agricultural research needs, which will further inform the funding of needs-driven research by the Department.

· The ARC provides feedback to the Portfolio Committee on sweet potato vine growers in the country.

· All the pieces of legislation that govern the OBP are fast-tracked for review and that OBP as a National Key Point company is fully funded by Government.

· The ARC and OBP strengthen their retention strategies and include restraint of trade policies that will ensure that the entities prevent loss of expertise.

· It collaborates with other relevant Departments including the private sector to look at water harvesting technologies that will benefit agriculture.

· It establishes preferential procurement policies for local products and encourages provincial departments and local governments to source vaccines from the OBP.

Report to be considered.


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