Thursday, July 14, 2011
Sunday, 10 July 2011 01:09 Agriculture
From Bulawayo Bureau
AN outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Botswana has forced the neighbouring country’s government to export more than 20 000 head of cattle from infected zones to Zimbabwe for direct slaughter and to donate 600 000 doses to vaccinate the Zimbabwean herd, it has been learnt.
Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made and his Botswana counterpart, Ms Christiaan de Graaf, are expected to officially sign the deal tomorrow in Bulawayo.
According to reports from Botswana, the neighbouring government suspended the slaughter of 23 000 cattle in areas affected by FMD and will instead sell cattle from these areas to Zimbabwe.
The affected areas are zones six and seven in the North East and Bobirwa respectively.
The planned sale of the cattle to Zimbabwe was confirmed by chief agriculture information officer Ms Boikhutso Rabasha in a telephone interview on Monday.
“I can confirm that the cattle will be sold to Zimbabwe once the necessary logistics have been concluded,” said Ms
Rabasha, who said she was not sure of the total number of cattle affected.
She did, however, confirm that the Botswana government had initially intended to kill 21 000 cattle in zone six and a further 2 000 in zone seven.
Ms Rabasha said only vaccinated cattle would be sold to Zimbabwe.
Matabeleland North provincial veterinary officer Dr Polex Moyo confirmed that an agreement had been reached by the two countries and was only awaiting official endorsement and allayed fears of infected cattle finding their way into the country.
“We will be having a meeting with officials from Botswana who will be accompanied by their minister and we expect the deal to be signed between their minister and ours on Monday (tomorrow).
“The cattle that will come into the country are not infected but are from an affected area and Botswana has even promised to assist us in vaccinating our cattle,” he said.
Dr Moyo said Botswana had a policy which approved the slaughter of infected cattle and those in affected areas largely because of their strong fiscus.
“Botswana cannot slaughter their infected or affected cattle in Gaborone because the abattoirs there are meant for export and their abattoirs in Francistown don’t have the capacity to handle the large numbers,” he said.
The imported cattle would be slaughtered at the Cold Storage Company’s (CSC) abattoirs. CSC’s state-of-the-art Bulawayo abattoir is probably the best slaughtering plant in sub-Sahara Africa.
Before the demise of the company its sophisticated and integrated facilities which included abattoirs in Chinhoyi, Marondera and Masvingo had a slaughter capacity of up to 600 000 head of cattle per year.
The Botswana government has promised to compensate its farmers P1 700 per killed animal in an effort to eradicate the disease.
Botswana, which believes the outbreak of FMD emanated from Zimbabwe, fears that if it does not intervene and assist its neighbour, 200 000 cattle would be threatened with infection in zone six and the potential spread of the disease to other areas, which would be accompanied by huge social and economic consequences.
Already vaccination of cattle against FMD in areas close to Botswana has begun under the supervision of Botswana veterinary officials, with an order of 600 000 doses being made by Zimbabwe and 200 000 of the doses had already been supplied by the Botswana Vaccine Institute.
Agriculture, especially livestock rearing, is one of the main contributors to the Botswana economy.
FMD is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild bovids. The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness.
FMD is a severe plague for animal farming, since it is highly infectious and can be spread by infected animals through aerosols, through contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed, and by domestic and wild predators. It has economic consequences in that the affected country cannot export to another, especially the EU.