THE Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ slow response to regaining South Africa’s status as free of foot-and-mouth disease has cost the economy at least R8bn over the past two years, says Red Meat Industry Forum chairman Dave Ford.
The department, criticised by Parliament for failing to meet its targets, is again in trouble with MPs, who heard a litany of complaints from meat producers.
After a presentation to Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries on Tuesday, Mr Ford said he was dissatisfied by the department’s response to his organisation’s concerns and the committee’s request that it meet the department again to iron out their differences.
He said no progress had been made since the forum met with the department a year ago.
"The only time the department responds to any query is when it comes from a lawyer. Otherwise they are totally silent and ignore us," Mr Ford said.
The forum told the committee the department had failed to meet eight out of nine undertakings it had given the industry last year.
These included implementing the Meat Safety Act; establishing an independent meat inspection service and ensuring that South Africa was certified free of foot-and-mouth disease after a 2011 outbreak.
The department had also pledged, and failed, to ensure the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis and contagious abortion. It had promised action against illegal red meat imports, to repair border fences to ensure disease control and compensation to small farmers in terms of the Animal Diseases Act.
It had said it would ensure compliance with Lesotho’s grazing permits, and urge the Namibian government to change its small stock marketing scheme that was contrary to World Trade Organisation obligations.
Mr Ford said that only the foot-and-mouth request to the World Animal Health Organisation had been dealt with.
"The forum has exhausted all non-litigious avenues available to it and, despite two previous appearances before the committee, the issues remain outstanding," he told MPs. The forum said the department was "dysfunctional" and attempts by industry role players to engage meaningfully with it had failed.
Committee chairman Mlungisi Johnson ordered the department to present the committee with a list of outstanding commitments it had made to the forum by the end of next week and to present a "comprehensive" report on progress it was making with all the issues before the end of next month.
"This is what we were told last year when we presented to the committee. It means we go back to square one," Mr Ford said.
The department’s acting director-general, Sipho Ntombela, objected to what he called the "adversarial stance" of the forum. He promised that the department would comply with the committee’s orders.
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