The Democratic Alliance (DA) is extremely concerned by the frequency at which biosecurity threats are cropping up in KwaZulu-Natal’s agricultural sector, with the recent news that the Brucella bacteria has surfaced in the northern parts of the province.
The outbreak follows a number of other serious biosecurity risks within the province including Fall Armyworm, Rabies and Anthrax.
The Brucella outbreak should be a serious cause for concern as the bacteria causes abortion, infertility, reduced milk production and weak joints in both livestock and humans. Given that many rural communities rely on livestock as a source of food and income, the spread of the Brucellosis disease would be devastating for our province both economically and for health-related reasons.
In 2019 the DA successfully pressured KZN’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to agree to conduct a provincial biosecurity risk analysis and report. This was to be done in conjunction with other stakeholder Departments at a provincial and national level. Despite a year having passed, the KZN portfolio committee on agriculture has still not been provided with the report.
With agriculture consistently showing its importance in weathering economic downturns as well as the important role it plays in terms of food security, it is mind-boggling that KZN’s ANC-led government has taken such a lackadaisical approach to biosecurity. Along with climate change and policy uncertainty, biosecurity threats are amongst the biggest risks to the sector and to food security in our province.
Of equal concern is the decreasing capacity of KZN’s DARD to handle such outbreaks. This due to the underfunding of state vets, laboratories and the Cedara facility as a whole. The DA has submitted parliamentary questions to the MEC about the current state of the Department and is awaiting a response.
The DA has written to KZN portfolio committee Chairperson, Sibhidla-Saphetha, to request that the MEC provide an urgent update on the state of biosecurity in the province as well as an update on the handling of the Brucellosis outbreak. We remain committed to ensuring that KZN’s Agriculture Department is ready and prepared to deal with biosecurity issues.