The Ministry of Agriculture has banned all imports of cloven-hoofed animals and their fresh products from South Africa with immediate effect.
This move follows a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak, which has been reported in South Africa's Mpumalanga province.
The ministry said in a statement yesterday that even importation of stock-feeds intended for use in cloven-hoofed animals from South Africa is suspended until further notice. All permits to import any products from the neighbouring country have therefore been invalidated.
"All issued import permits for cloven-hoofed animals, cloven-hoofed derived fresh products and livestock feeds are, therefore, void," the ministry's statement said.
The Acting Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Kefentse Motshegwa, said in an interview in Gaborone yesterday that this (outbreak) is bad news for Botswana since the country risked acquiring the disease through the importation of livestock and their fresh products.
He said that the outbreak disrupts trade between the two countries and leads to shortages of various agricultural inputs. It also inconveniences tourists and leads to loss of income for many stakeholders.
He said that Botswana imports mainly fresh milk, pork products and livestock feeds from South Africa.
Motshegwa explained that Botswana still imports most of its milk from South Africa because the dairy industry "is just expensive" for most farmers to invest in. There is also lack of expertise and manpower needed for the industry to flourish in Botswana. In addition, there is lack of inputs like land for the business and feeds for the animals. Diseases like mastitis, metabolic diseases and FMD are also factors militating against the local dairy industry.
Motshegwa said that in Botswana, FMD remains largely confined to the northern parts of the country where it is maintained in the wildlife (buffalo) population from which incursions occur into livestock areas. Control strategy involves movement restriction, vaccination and separation of FMD susceptible livestock from the wildlife reservoir, he said.
He noted that recent sustained and repeated outbreaks of FMD in vaccinated herds in Ngamiland have necessitated a review of FMD vaccination programme.
"This has resulted in the department increasing the vaccination frequency and further investments in cold chain maintenance. The Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI), the producers of the FMD vaccine, are also constantly looking into ways of improving
"In Zone 6 the disease was controlled by vaccination and slaughtering of 47, 000 head of cattle in the infected area - which has since been cordoned off from the rest of the zone and designated a containment zone," he said, adding that the "containment zone is now officially recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health". In Zone 7 the disease was controlled by slaughtering and vaccination, he said. Vaccination will continue at three to four month intervals until surveillance demonstrates that the virus is no longer circulating, he noted.
Purified vaccine, now produced by BVI at their new facility, is used. It is anticipated that purified vaccine will enhance surveillance for virus circulation as it makes it possible to differentiate between antibodies induced by vaccination from field induced antibodies, he explained. The acting director added that the Botswana government is collaborating with the Zimbabwean government to control FMD in areas along the common border through joint vaccinations and enhancing border security to curb illegal border crossings and disease spread.He said that currently the Department of Veterinary Services is working closely with the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) to ensure that sanitary and animal traceability obligations and guarantees to the European Union (EU) are met.
"Re-listing for export to EU is subject to compliance with EU requirements," he noted.
In the meantime, the ministry has requested farmers to ensure their livestock does not stray into South Africa to reduce contact and spread of the disease. Also they should look out for any signs of the disease in their livestock.
"The general public and farmers are encouraged to be on the lookout for signs of the disease in their livestock," the statement read, adding "farmers who have recently imported cloven livestock from South Africa are requested to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious signs to the nearest veterinary office".
Any animal with FMD normally limps with saliva dripping from its mouth.