DA calls on Minister Didiza to address animal biosecurity crisis

Issued by Noko Masipa MP – DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
01 Mar 2023 in News

The DA calls on Minister Thoko Didiza to open the market for vaccine production of controlled diseases by the private sector to reduce pressure on farmers and avoid food insecurity.

We also call on the minister to release the Ministerial Task Team Animal Biosecurity report, which was established in August 2021. The task team was formed with special emphasis on Foot and Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

The DA is extremely concerned about the crisis faced by farmers in South Africa. The Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and Onderstepoort Biological Product are failing to resolve the shortage of vaccines let alone improvements on national animal biosecurity.

During his State of the Nation Address, the president failed to mention the steps that the government has taken to address animal biosecurity and the shortage of vital blood vaccines, given the frequent outbreak of controlled diseases across the country. These vaccines are critical for controlled diseases, and if administered on time, the farmers and the department shall be in a position to negotiate bilateral trade and open new lucrative markets for animal products.

Despite promises made by the Onderstepoort Biological Product (OBP), the DA continues to receive calls from farmers who are losing their livestock and are panicking because of the unavailability of vaccines at Onderstepoort Biological Products.

Horse owners have escalated their challenges of African Horse Sickness (AHS) to the portfolio committee. The complaints from farmers range from outdated vaccines to the lack of availability of vaccines. The horse community can no longer tolerate these challenges – they urgently need assistance from the department. The horse owners plead for further research and development of vaccines.

A source indicated that this year alone, 100 horses have died in Mthatha. While DALRRD is unable to account for the death of horses, the animal welfare organization has been able to keep records and give an account of animals dying of diseases in their area. Furthermore, the source complained of a broken system with no care and support from DALRRD at all.

Some of the concerns that the horse community face include:

  1. No AHS case monitoring or recording, civic education in rural areas nor outreach. By law, horses need to be vaccinated, yet it is impossible for a large part of the horse-owning population to vaccinate.
  2. Little attention is given to eradicating AHS, despite that fact that the horse industry generates millions of rands for the government, and employs thousands.
  3. Very little is being done to support state veterinarians with vaccines, yet they are supposed to respond to all suspected cases of AHS.

It is now time for the minister to take drastic steps to deal with this agricultural crisis.