Limpopo foot, mouth outbreak contained: Zokwana

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Government says a task team has been established to reassure investors and trading partners in the red meat industry over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.

The outbreak in Limpopo halted the export of products from cloven hoof animals such as cattle, pig and goats.

Namibia, Botswana and the Kingdom of e-Swatini, formerly Swaziland, have suspended meat imports.

Vhembe District in Limpopo has been put under quarantine to curb the spread of food and mouth disease. But this comes as Zimbabwe is also in the process of implementing a ban on South Africa’s meat import.

The area was officially declared a foot and mouth zone over a week ago. Minister of Agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana, told the media in Pretoria that the outbreak has been contained. He says the affected area is closely guarded.

“We want to make sure that this spillage is limited to Vhembe District. Especially in the Sundani village. The affected cattle is less than fifty in an area with about 10 to 15-thousand cattle. The area remains under quarantine so that no further infection can occur.”

Zokwana says a task team will be working closely with neighbouring countries to ensure the outbreak doesn’t spread across the borders. He says the disease is not transmittable to human beings and there’s no need to panic.

“It will remain proper and normal for you to have a braai without fear of any problem in terms of your health. So it’s not going to cause any panic for the people, because it has been clarify that it will not cause any problem to people who eat meat.”

Red meat producers believe the outbreak may lead to a slight price fall on the beef, mutton and pork products if no solution is identified soon. Gerhard Schutte, CEO of Red Meat Producers Organisation says import sales will be affected.

“Well, it’s all supply and demand, and we are in the free market. We export about 3% of local production that will not go out anymore. So that’s what is in the local market and we know that the buying power is not good at this stage. So it’s very good news for the consumer. Red meat price is going to go down a little bit, but definitely sideways.”

Chairperson of the National Association of Meat Producers, Pieter Vervoort says they support all efforts done to bring the situation back to normal.

“We all resolve that we need to speedily find the solution as soon as possible. And the commitment shown by all so far gives hope that will be able to find quick solution. And I would like to reiterate what the minister has said that there’s no risk.”

The minister and the task team have assured the nation and neighbouring trade partners that the area where the outbreak was detected is closely monitored. A team of experts has been deployed to the Vhembe district. This is to ensure that the spread of the disease is contained and that the infection rate is curbed through ongoing vaccination on life stock.