Lack of proper pest and disease control threaten sustainability

The ability to detect, prevent and respond to animal health and livestock emergencies is critical to ensure food security and the sustainability of the agricultural sector of any country.

Mr Paul Makube, Senior Agricultural Economist at FNB, says South Africa has a well-established disease and pest management regime.

Livestock risks

The country has been battling with the control of foot and mouth disease (FMD) as well as African Swine Fever (ASF), both notifiable diseases.

South Africa suffered a major setback in its efforts to control outbreaks of FMD in 2019. Despite putting several systems in place following the outbreaks in Limpopo, the OIE has not yet lifted the temporary suspension of SA’s FMD-free zone status.

Makube says import bans have a direct impact on exporting producers’ bottom line. Producers can lose billions when they are forced to redirect their products to the local market, forfeiting foreign currency income. Although FMD is not readily transmissible to humans and therefor poses no public health risk, it has a huge economic impact.


Onderstepoort Biological Products, a state-owned enterprise, has sufficient capacity to manufacture vaccines for most of the so-called African diseases. According to Dr Chris van Dijk, chair of the national Animal Health Forum, not all producers are compliant with the use of vaccines and that all animals are not vaccinated, especially with compulsory vaccines such as brucellosis and anthrax.

A major risk for the livestock industries is biosecurity (the management of animals, people, and programs), says Van Dijk. “Biosecurity measures are quite advanced in the commercial pig, poultry, and some dairy and beef herds,” says Van Dijk.

However, a much bigger focus is required on biosecurity and bio-containment, as well as the implementation of phyto- and phytosanitary measures.

These measures have to ensure complete preparedness for known state controlled, notifiable and other diseases, as well as for many emerging diseases already in SA or on close to our borders such as Lung sickness (Bovine pleuro pneumonia) in cattle and Pest de Petits (pest of small stock).

Biosecurity needs to form part of day-to-day management. “Non-adherence to biosecurity principles remains our ‘Trojan Horse’ with the management and containment of disease,” says Van Dijk.