South Africa has met international conditions to recover its foot-and-mouth disease-free status, paving the way for meat export bans to be lifted, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.
"[I'm] delighted to confirm that the International Scientific Commission [for Animal diseases] has concluded that South Africa … thus qualifies for the recovery of its status as country where FMD vaccination is not practised," Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told reporters at Parliament.
The government will now enter into negotiations with the former importers' regulatory authorities, including the European Union and neighbouring African states, to secure the lifting of restrictions on South African meat products, said Mpho Maja, the agriculture department's director for animal health.
Asked how long it would take to conclude the talks and for full exports to resume, Maja could not give a definite answer.
"That is like asking how long is a piece of string," he said.
Restrictions have been in place since February 2011 when there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease among cattle in KwaZulu-Natal, costing the country some R3-billion in lost exports a year.
Maja said the source of the outbreak had never been discovered, and a theory that it came from Mozambique was unfounded because fences between South Africa and its northern neighbour were found to be intact. – Sapa