Bots beef industry teeters as FMD rears its ugly head

By Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – Botswana’s beef industry is facing an uncertain future following a fresh outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Ngamiland District in northern part of the country. 

The Ministry of Agriculture and food Security explained that this comes about after reports from famers of sighting cattle that were showing suspicious signs. 

Dr Letlhogile Modisa, the director of the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) Dr said his officers have followed up the allegations and found five animals that were showing signs that are consistent with the disease.

“As a result of these findings, the slaughter and movement of all cloven hoofed animals and their fresh products within and out of the district are suspended until further notice,” he said.

Modisa also explained that export of all meat products from export slaughter and processing plants produced in the last 30 days in Ngamiland has been suspended.

He has called on farmers to cooperate with the Ministry of Agriculture officials and round up animals as and when they are required to do so without failure. They are also expected to report any sick cattle without delay.

For its part, Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) said that given the pronouncement(s) made by DVS on 21st September 2017, about suspected cases of FMD outbreak in Ngamiland, it has taken a decision to immediately halt production at its Maun abattoir, the area where the outbreak occurred.

BMC said this decision, which only concerns its meat plant at Maun, means that there would be neither buying nor slaughter of cattle in the Ngamiland region until such a time advised by the Director DVS.

According to BMC, other services save for buying/procurement and slaughter of cattle will continue as usual and unimpeded.

“BMC regrets this situation and urges for cooperation and restraint from the Ngamiland beef producers/farmers as well as all critical stakeholders,” the national abattoir said in a press statement.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Patrick Ralotsia has informed farmers and local authorities in Ngamiland about the latest outbreak of the disease.

Despite having a laboratory that manufactures FMD vaccines, Botswana has been struggling to contain or eradicate the disease.

On a related matter, the government recently announced that it has donated a vaccine for Foot and Mouth Disease to neighbouring Zimbabwe in order to assist the country to tackle the current disease outbreak. 

The government invested heavily on prevention measures as well as on research to eliminate the disease and has been FMD free over the past five years. The vaccine donated to Zimbabwe is manufactured by the Botswana Vaccine Institute. 

In a statement released by the principal public relations officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Boikhutso Rabasha said the donation of over 400, 000 doses is an important measure to avoid a possible risk of reversing the efforts invested in restoring FMD free status in Botswana zones that share a border with Zimbabwe.

Botswana which was once an avid exporter of beef to the European Union (EU) faced serious challenges with several outbreaks of FMD over the last couple of years, greatly jeopardizing the growth of the country’s beef sector. 

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