Department of Agriculture must get its act together on vaccines before it’s too late

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

Please find attached a soundbite by Noko Masipa MP.

In a reply to a DA Parliamentary question, the Minister of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, revealed that her Department has spent R78 million purchasing foot and mouth vaccines from Botswana. This comes after the DA asked for reasons why vaccines cannot be procured in South Africa.

This revelation comes during the time when farmers are going through very difficult time resulting from poor maintenance of infrastructure at OBP. The facilities at the institution are no longer suitable for the production of vaccines needed by the sector.

The Democratic Alliance remains concerned at the slow pace of government’s efforts to restore confidence of vaccine production in the livestock sector. June month is the start of horse vaccination window. The industry was promised 40 000 African Horse Sickness vaccines doses by end of April month and to date there is no clear indication that the promised 40 000 doses are available for farmers.

The farmers no longer trust any communication from both the OBP and the department regarding the promises to address their challenges of vaccines. The Democratic Alliance shall be handing the petition soon to parliament to seek parliament to instruct the Minister and her Department to release African Horse Sickness and Rift Valley Fever Vaccines strains to private sector to assist with the production to safe livestock industry and protect our food security.

Considering that the vaccines procured externally get sold to Onderstepoort Biological Product (OBP) at unknown mark-up to another government entity Veterinary Services, the cost to government is way higher than the stated R78 million. Food security is under pressure because over the years, the important elements of the food system never received the attention from the government.

It is estimated that 40% of South African livestock is in the hands of black smallholder farmers, who use the livestock to ensure that their households are food secure. However, instead of these smallholder farmers getting allocation from government to make them sustainable, the government is spending millions of rands in buying vaccines which could’ve been produced cheaply locally.