Government lifts ban on livestock auctions, imposes strict rules
The government has lifted a ban on public auctions of livestock which was put in place after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease last year.
However, there will be stringent conditions for auctions when they resume, and they will be conducted only by agents registered with the Agriculture Produce Agents Council.
Yesterday’s announcement was welcomed by Agri EC president Doug Stern, who said the lifting of the ban would “immensely” benefit farmers and auctioneers.
“This affected us tremendously. This will have one hell of an impact on all us,” he said.
Stern said the sector was vitally important to the SA economy and a livestock identification and tractability system was urgently needed.
The system tracks animal movement, identifies all animals uniquely, monitors animal health, assists in disease control and manages feed.
Because it is so efficient, tractability is now a requirement to export meat to the EU and US.
“This will prevent future outbreaks and put a stop to stock theft. It is crucial and will be costly but it is in the interest of the country,” Stern said.
Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza said the government would seek to amend the Animal Identification Act of 2002, which provides for the identification of each animal.
On the ban, Didiza said: “We did that, appreciating the impact this would have in the industry, but it was necessary to contain the spread.
“However, our assessment was that there is a possibility you have movement of animals at night and it might reach other provinces beyond the three [affected].
“We had to do a temporary ban across the country, allowing us time to get to the root of the spread of the disease in Limpopo,” she said, explaining the decision to impose a countrywide ban in December.
Didiza was careful to state that all the government’s decisions on the issue had been taken in consultation with relevant stakeholders who were part of committees set up after the announcement of the outbreak in November.
“Whatever decisions we’ve taken on control measures were driven by that committee,” she said.
Didiza said Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Zimbabwe decided to ban imports of beef and livestock animals from SA while other countries did not, but they kept in contact to understand how the disease was being controlled.
“We didn’t lose a lot of markets internationally. We still maintained our exports to China and the Middle East because of the control measures we put in place,” Didiza said.
She said a trade committee that was established had been monitoring the outbreak and ensuring no additional markets were lost.
“I understand the impact this has had in the economy, particularly for the auctioneers whose business is about trading, but they also appreciate that what we did was to protect the entirety of the red meat industry of SA,” she said.
The government could not yet say how much money had been lost by the industry due to the ban, but a study was under way to establish this.
The control measures being put in place included ensuring that people who are trading did not move high-risk animals showing signs of disease, animals from unknown origin or animals originating from known infected areas.
Didiza said it was important that farmers did not buy animals from people who could not vouch for the origins of the livestock.
Buyers must also insist on being given a veterinary health declaration before taking the animals, the minister said.