May 18, 2023
South Africa's livestock farmers dismayed by lack of critical vaccines
Livestock farmers, meat producers and politicians in South Africa are in uproar over the shortage of strategic vaccines caused by ongoing challenges at the state-owned animal vaccine manufacturing company, Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP).
OBP, whose mandate is to manufacture animal vaccines with the aim of preventing and controlling animal diseases that impact food security, human health and livelihoods, said it was "in the midst of supply challenges."
The organisation is the only institution in South Africa with registered animal vaccine strains to manufacture vaccines against blue-tongue, African Horse Sickness and Rift Valley Fever diseases for livestock in the country.
Member of South Africa's parliament Noko Masipa has gathered more than 11 000 signatures in an online petition urging the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to ensure market availability of registered vaccine strains developed by OBP.
Masipa wants OBP vaccines, which were developed using taxpayers' money, to be made available to private companies and other companies within South Africa with the capacity to produce vaccines. She said this would help a currently overwhelmed OBP keep up with its manufacturing demands.
Red Meat Producers' Organisation (RPO) chairperson, James Faber, said the shortage of strategic vaccines in the livestock and animal industries had caused "a state of disaster in the red meat industry".
Faber said that commercial and emerging producers were suffering serious losses due to blue tongue outbreaks which cause up to 50% mortality among herds and African horse sickness among horses and donkeys which play a supporting role in the production process of red meat.
Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer said: "Many decades of (mismanagement) and inability to appoint experienced and competent staff has led to the demise of the Onderstepoort facility."
Meyer added that neighbouring countries, such as Botswana, which historically sourced their vaccines from Onderstepoort for decades were now investing in their own facilities following the unreliability of supplies from OBP.
Meyer noted that the livestock sector accounts for almost half of the Western Cape's agricultural exports and, as such, the province was responsible for more than half of South Africa's agricultural exports.