The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to urgently address the shortage of locally produced foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccines.
DA member of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Noko Masipa says there is also a shortage of other much-needed livestock vaccines for diseases like Rift Valley fever and bluetongue disease.
“Urgent attention must also be paid to the poor management of the Onderstepoort Biological Product (OBP) and Agricultural Research Council (ARC),” said Masipa.
“The OBP and ARC are meant to support livestock farmers, and to finish building the promised FMD vaccines facility so that these vaccines can be produced locally,” Masipa said.
The DA has raised these concerns in the past, but the party says there’s been little intervention from the department.
Agriculture is one of the very few sectors that has grown economically and it’s providing most of the new employment opportunities in South Africa.
The sector is expected to continue on a positive trajectory for the next couple of years, with the livestock industry doing particularly well.
“It provides the best opportunity to accelerate transformation in agriculture, but unless the government takes the prevention of diseases like FMD seriously, it may end up creating an overstocking of non-tradeable livestock commodity because of the poor management of animal health,” said Masipa.
“Even farmers with access to the best veterinary services are bound to fail without locally produced vaccines to ensure the good health of their animals.”
The department, through the ARC, proposed the building of a foot and mouth disease facility.
“This was supported by the portfolio committee and R500 million was received from Treasury. But, eight years later, the facility has yet to be completed and South Africa is importing FMD vaccines from Botswana,” said Masipa.
OBP is still without a CEO, despite the institution showing a solid financial performance as a result of the introduction of new vaccines which were needed by the industry.
“The suspension of a successful CEO should come as no surprise given the revelations that the ANC called the shots on who was appointed to the helm of South Africa’s high court. Cadre deployment is also rotting the country’s agriculture sector,” warned Masipa.
The DA is appealing to Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, to investigate the situation at OBP and ARC and says the management of the two institutions is threatening the livestock industry.
The following are key points of investigations and suggestions:
- The progress regarding the building of the FMD vaccine production facility;
- The shortage of vaccines at OBP;
- The reasons behind the new board purging CEO and high resignation of senior executives;
- Provide livestock industry with vaccines solutions as a matter of urgency; and
- Consider the proposal made to promote veterinary vaccine production by private companies.
(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)