South Africa's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease is under control and beef exports have resumed to certain areas, but there is still a long road ahead, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said on Thursday.
The virus, which causes lameness and reluctance to eat in affected animals, was detected in Limpopo earlier this year, and in January, the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) suspended South Africa's status as a foot-and-mouth disease free zone.
"Though the outbreak is under control, this does not mean that it is resolved and that no further measures will be implemented.
"There is still a long road ahead, but the danger is currently out of the way.
"It is imperative that all parties that have been instrumental in the success thus far remain committed and work together to resolve this outbreak as soon as possible," the DAFF said in a statement.
No new cases
There have been no new cases of FMD in the last seven weeks. Sero-surveillance samples have been taken from all dip tanks and/or crush pens in the disease management area and are being processed at Onderstepoort, the department said.
More than 13 000 animals in the previous FMD-free zone will have been vaccinated twice by the end of March 2019.
There are still strict movement control regulations in place, with no animals allowed to move out of, into or inside the disease management area without state veterinary approval. Additionally, no unprocessed products of cloven-hooved animals are allowed out of the disease management area.
Roadblocks are still in place and will probably be replaced with roving patrols in the near future, the department added.
Trade and export
As for trade, the DAFF said the continuation of trade in safe commodities – i.e. any product processed in a way that could destroy FMD – had been prioritised. These include raw salted hides and skins, scoured wool, collagen and gelatine, processed dairy and dairy products, and pork from approved FMD-free pig compartments.
The department has negotiated the required veterinary certificates for beef exports to Bahrain, Lesotho, Mozambique, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Swaziland, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Trade in pork from FMD-free pig compartments has been reopened to Lesotho, Seychelles, Mozambique, Swaziland and, partially, to Namibia.
Markets for dairy products have largely been restored, the DAFF said.
Some markets for the export of hides, skins and wool are still affected, including China.
"The DAFF’s Director-General and the Chief Director: Animal Production and Health, went to China and were well received.
"[A] presentation was made on the FMD outbreak status and the planned action to regain the previous FMD-free zone without vaccination status. Their Chinese counterparts requested the opportunity to evaluate the information presented and to conduct a risk analysis on trade in safe commodities," the DAFF said.
However, it said it was confident the virus was being well controlled. "The situation as described above demonstrates that the Disease Control Strategy is yielding positive results."
An application to the OIE Technical Committee for declaration of a disease containment zone is being prepared and will be submitted before the end of April 2019, the department said.
If this application is successful, the FMD free zone status of the rest of the country will be reinstated.