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FSA calls for urgency in the fight against the spread of FMD

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“Reports of the highly contagious Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) being detected in a feedlot and then the neighbouring commonage areas of Harrismith last week in cattle and pigs have raised fears of the spread to neighbouring farmers, Tsiame and Phuthaditjhaba and from there to Lesotho” said Adv. George Galloway, Chairman of the Harrismith District Farmers Association. 

The matter was escalated to Free State Agriculture (FSA) who wrote a letter to the Provincial authorities charged with controlling the outbreaks on 02 September to act swiftly as matter of urgency. It was pointed out that the current situation was a state of emergency and warranted more drastic action than it was currently being afforded.

The Harrismith Municipal commonage is linked to the Tsiame communal areas through a very short stretch of railway and road verges alone which livestock regularly move and thus easy to block. From Tsiame, state and emerging farmers own all the land up until Phuthaditjhaba. These routes should have been blocked immediately as a matter of urgency. Furthermore the N5 and N3 national routes converge within the quarantined zone at Harrismith!

It is unacceptable to FSA that the proper road-blocks were not set up sooner and that to date after empty promises that roadblocks still are not in place. This in effect gave all in the know who possibly had cattle on the commonage more than a weeks’ chance to move their cattle with potentially disastrous effect for the communal and emerging farmers in and around the QwaQwa area if the virus cannot be contained. Furthermore, if affected livestock get into Lesotho, it can drastically affect their national herd and pop out anywhere in SA through our permeable borders, rendering the current restriction on the movement of cattle useless and / or prolonging the movement ban. Already the restriction is having dire cash-flow effects on cattle farmers and role-players in the beef value chain.

The current cattle movement restrictions instituted by Government Notice on 18 August was for 21 days and an announcement from the state is imminent as to whether the ban may be lifted in certain FMD-free provinces and/or the ban be prolonged beyond the 21 day in provinces such as the Free State where the spread has not been contained due to reasons above and possibly extended to other cloven hoofed animals. 

FSA thus calls for urgent action to contain the further spread of the virus and for farmers to step in once again where the state can’t fulfil their mandate.  As such FSA reserves our rights to approach a competent court to obtain the necessary relief if the relevant legislation at the State’s disposal is not effectively enforced.