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The recent Government Gazette, imposing a restriction on the movement of cattle nationally for 21 days, except under a red cross permit for slaughter at a registered abattoir, is a knee-jerk and irrational measure taken by the minister to be seen to be doing something. The reality is that government veterinary services have failed dismally in getting the latest foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) spread under control.

Currently, the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape have no reported cases of FMD. Agri Eastern Cape requested months ago that control measures be put in place at the provincial borders to prevent the spread, while outbreaks within other affected areas were focussed on. This request later resulted in a directive being issued by Dr Rozani, acting chief director of veterinary services, on 2 August 2022. This directive required that any animal being moved into the Eastern Cape should be moved under a movement permit issued by a state veterinarian.

Read more about the FMD restriction on the movement of cattle here.

This directive, which was not enforced by means of roadblocks at provincial entry points – apparently due to costs – was welcomed as it would have allowed movement and economic activity within the province to at least continue while limiting the risk of the disease spreading. The directive was later withdrawn on 15 August 2022 to make way for the national control measure.

It is clear that those who advised the minister on this matter had no concept of the realities at ground level.

It does not make sense to extend movement restrictions for 21 days throughout the country if FMD could not be contained in affected areas and outbreaks occurred in previously FMD-free zones while movement restrictions were in place previously.

Unless physical movement control points are set up, all that is going to happen is that law-abiding producers who are not the problem will probably adhere to the control measures, while those producers, speculators, and agents who are the problem will just continue movement without sanction. Meat prices to the consumers within the Eastern Cape are going to rise and normal market forces will be disrupted. In addition, some within the industry in the industry will most certainly taken advantage of this situation in the market. In its current form, the national ban will only aid in the continued destruction of the economy and severely affect the smaller role-players within the value chain.

Focus on interprovincial movement control

The processes allowed to move animals under a red cross permit for slaughter are impractical, costly and in fact, cannot be effectively complied with given the limited number of private and state veterinarians. These measures are going to have an impact on animal welfare such as emergency slaughters, the essential transport of dairy animals from run-off farms to milking farms, and the transport of dairy calves to growing out facilities.

In spite of the implementation of biosecurity measures at auction facilities, sales cannot go ahead, even with the veterinary screening of animals. This is a devastating blow for producers and emerging farmers. Agri Eastern Cape has been calling on government and industry role-players for a number of years to effectively police the infected zones and implement a compulsory national animal traceability system. One can only question the motives behind why this has not happened.

It is further not understood why formally recognised structures such Agri Eastern Cape, the Eastern Cape Animal Health Forum and the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, had not been consulted for input before such a drastic measure affecting the Eastern Cape was taken.

Agri Eastern Cape is calling on the minister to rescind this irrational cattle movement ban, and rather impose restrictions and enforce interprovincial movement control and focus attention on the affected areas. More importantly, government needs to start consulting urgently with all industry role-players on meaningful, implementable, and practical measures to get FMD under control. – Press release, Agri Eastern Cape