Johannesburg – The Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) on Wednesday warned of a looming food shortage in South Africa, which the entity largely blamed on ongoing load-shedding.
RPO Chairperson James Faber said South African farmers were under severe pressure due to ongoing load-shedding and were taking further strain because of the shortage of animal vaccines.
“Commercial and emerging producers are suffering serious losses due to bluetongue outbreaks which cause up to 50% mortality among herds,” said Faber.
The RPO protects and promotes the interests of commercial producers within the red meat industry’s value chain.
Faber said farmers do not receive compensation for any stock mortality due to the compromised vaccine supply, resulting in not only another hole in their pockets but also empty food shelves.
The problem of the unavailability of quality vaccines can be traced to the deteriorating circumstances at Onderstepoort Biological Products (SBO).
Established more than a century ago – SBO has until recent times been renowned worldwide for its innovative research in livestock vaccine development.
However, Faber said many decades of maladministration and the inability to appoint experienced and competent staff have led to the demise of this state-owned enterprise.
Although the government has allocated funding, Faber said no maintenance has been done on the facility or its equipment, resulting in the permanent breakdown of laboratory infrastructure.
Further to this, increased red tape to import the necessary vaccines is not doing South Africa’s meat production any favours.
“The development of all these vaccines and strains was paid for by the South African taxpayer, so they should be public property,” said Gideon Joubert, CEO of DearSA.
“Capable and willing private manufacturers can resolve the disaster facing our country, and they should be granted licenses and permits to import or manufacture crucial vaccines.”
Faber said the national government must remove the stumbling blocks. Not doing so impacts directly on our agricultural economy and the country’s food security.
A biosecurity task team presented a report that addresses the challenges the country faces due to vaccine shortages to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development.
“DearSA urges the task team to consider multiple solutions, including to include fast-tracking approvals at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) for alternatively locally manufactured vaccines, as well as lifting the regulations to allow the import of animal vaccine supplies,” said Joubert.
DearSA’s public participation forms part of the solutions for the formal implementation plan.