Grim report on animal biosecurity in South Africa highlights need for urgent action

Agri SA welcomes the release of the report by the Task Team on Animal Biosecurity. The task team was appointed to deal with the issue of animal biosecurity and the role of the state in this regard. We thank the Minister for the release of the report. Completed already in May 2022, it has finally been made public after persistent lobbying by the sector. 

The release of the report comes amid a vaccine shortage that is wreaking havoc in the livestock sector. The report details numerous and serious failings in the veterinary and animal biosecurity systems in the country, describing the systems as ‘broken’. The problems identified are far-reaching, from institutional design and budgetary constraints to production constraints at Onderstepoort Biological Products Limited (OBP). These findings validate the concerns the sector has repeatedly raised and highlight the magnitude of the threat biosecurity failures pose to the country’s food security. 

Of critical importance now is that government, in partnership with the sector, works to tackle the problems identified with great urgency. This matter must be a priority of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD). Similarly, the management of OBP, who are responsible for the timely manufacturing of vaccines, and other DALRRD officials responsible for biosecurity management must be held accountable for failures to act timeously on the recommendations in the report. 

The report also highlights decision-making processes in government characterised by a distrust of the private sector. This has led to a repeated refusal to facilitate greater private sector involvement in this space, a concern the sector has raised repeatedly. Now that the issue has been identified as an impediment to effective biosecurity, the resolution of this intractable problem must be prioritised. This is the only way to ensure that the country has sufficient and readily available vaccines and that timely interventions are implemented to prevent and manage animal disease outbreaks. 

The South African agricultural sector faces many urgent challenges, but biosecurity must be recognised as one of the most pressing. With the report on the true state of biosecurity now made public, we have no time to waste in addressing the challenges it identifies. South Africa’s food security depends on it. 


Christo van der Rheede

Agri SA: Chief Executive Officer

083 380 3492