Biosecurity hub will aid agricultural exports

South Africa’s control and management of plant and animal diseases, identified as a hindrance to agricultural exports, has been improved by the establishment of a biosecurity hub in Pretoria.

The hub was launched by Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza, and has been welcomed by the agricultural community.

The hub would focus on the prevention and management of pests and diseases that threatened plant health, animal health and food safety, said Dr Maneshree Jugmohan-Naidu, director of agricultural biotechnology at the Department of Science and Innovation.

“It will provide research and information services to the public and private sectors, with a view to strengthen biosecurity and meet the [sanitary and phytosanitary] requirements of international trade.”

The need for better animal disease management, particularly in pigs, cattle and poultry, was highlighted earlier this month by the Bureau for Agricultural Policy (BFAP) an independent research organisation. In its latest 10-year agricultural forecast, it said increased agricultural production was dependent on exports.

“Yet the animal health system, an essential precondition to achieve this, is currently inefficient in managing diseases, resulting in more frequent and widespread outbreaks, which hampers productivity and limits export opportunities. 

“Failure to address disease management constraints through improvement in animal health services is costing the industry and the country billions of rands in lost exports and South Africa is missing out on what is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for inclusive growth in agriculture.”

The biosecurity hub is an important step towards addressing that problem. Still awaited are increases in state veterinary staff and facilities to improve provision of the health certification necessary for the export of raw meat such as poultry.

This is an important component of the poultry sector master plan, but implementation is way behind schedule