[Letter] Lax biosecurity a threat to agriculture

SA’s biosecurity struggles pose a serious risk to the agricultural industry and the domestic economy. The near simultaneous outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, African swine fever in pigs, and avian influenza in poultry in 2022 and 2023, highlighted concerns about the efficacy of the country’s biosecurity measures.

The damage to the agriculture industry and domestic economy is severe. Uncontrollable animal disease outbreaks threaten the livelihood of both commercial and small-scale farmers because they result in losses through culling, higher costs for biosecurity measures such as vaccinations, and lower revenue when export markets are closed.

This inhibits growth in the agricultural sector and places at risk the jobs of the 500,000 individuals employed through the agriculture industry.

As we wrote in our client-exclusive Risk Alert of August 15 2022: “The government’s romantic attachment to small-scale, informal farmers — and its unwillingness to crack down on stock theft and the trespassing of small-scale herders on commercial farming operations — poses a liability to the SA economy.

“The economically rational approach to optimising animal health and maximising export opportunities would be to restrict cloven-hoofed animal farming to formal operations able to maintain high biosecurity standards and comply with international norms.”

Other economic repercussions are that Namibia, SA’s biggest pork export market, closed its borders to SA pork in January 2022 when the industry was affected by foot-and-mouth disease. Additionally, the government does not compensate farmers who lose diseased livestock. It is estimated that poultry farmers lost R466m from the start of the avian flu outbreak to the end of 2023.

In 2022 agriculture, land reform & rural development minister Thoko Didiza appointed a task team to investigate the conditions of animal biosecurity in SA. The task team found that insufficient biosecurity at its core is due to limited or no government funding to reinforce control measures.

The repercussion of limited capacity is that the responses to outbreaks of animal diseases are too slow, and poor management worsens the situation.

Article originally appeared here.

© Centre for Risk Analysis
Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy
CMS Website by Juizi