Dreaded crop and animal diseases moving closer to South Africa

The South African agricultural industry must change its approach to potential crop and livestock diseases completely.

This according to Prof. Darell Abernethy, dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Pretoria, during a congress by Croplife and the South African Animal Health Forum in Johannesburg.

Abernethy was referring to Pestes des petits ruminants (PPR) and Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), which haven’t yet been reported in South Africa, but already occur all over Africa.

PPR is highly contagious and can lead to a 100% mortality rate in affected livestock.

The disease was initially reported in Côte d’Ivoire and has since spread to Africa and Asia.

“We are one country away from having the disease on our borders. All that we need is for people to smuggle infected sheep from Mozambique into KwaZulu-Natal, and then we have the disease in South Africa,” said Abernethy.


CBPP has been recorded in countries north of Namibia, but South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are free of the disease.

Botswana prevented a large outbreak a few years ago by culling large numbers of animals.

“Awareness and cooperation are the only options to prevent these diseases. Industry and government have to find ways to cooperate and ensure that these diseases don’t gain a foothold, or are managed properly when they do occur.”

He said two myths must also be dealt with.

“The first myth is to reason that the government needs to take full responsibility for the biosecurity of South African livestock. Where government resources fail, the private sector needs to cooperate to fill the gaps.”

The second is to think that a serious disease will not break out on you farm.

“The border for animal diseases is your farm gate. We need a multidisciplinary and coordinated effort from everyone involved in the livestock industry to address the issue, especially in the areas where the game industry is very active.”


New plant diseases and pests are also of concern, said Jan-Hendrik Venter, Manager of Plant Health: Early warning systems at the Directorate of Animal Health at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Pests that are very worrying, besides Tuta absulata and the fall armyworm which caused widespread damage, are the Asian fruit fly and the woolly whitefly in citrus and the blueberry bud mite and the red palm mite.

According to Venter, Panama disease – a banana-destroying disease – and Liberibacter asiaticus – which can cause great damage to citrus – are also on its way.

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