To the emerging pig farmers, the whole process of culling pigs due to ASF breakout was dodgy.
Some even believe the bigger motive was to destroy their businesses so that commercial farmers can have a whole market to themselves.
Mzansi Agri Talk spoke to farmers who were affected.
They didn’t like the whole process of their pigs being culled by SAPPO, SPCA, and the department of agriculture.
“Initially when they came to our farm, they told us that there was a case of ASF near our farm and we were told that they were going to take tests to check if we were affected but they never came back with the results.
“It was the department of agriculture that came to do the tests…they promised to come back in two weeks but they never did,” said Sandile Feni, co-owner of Prestige Farming in Delmas, Gauteng.
He said that afterward, there was another ASF case that was reported some 10km from where they are farming.
A meeting was called and they said they were going to do tests…they also said they were going to cull the pigs if they tested positive…that’s where the cull price was also discussed.
“But to be honest these people were so pushy to a point where they make you see that there is nothing you can do but to just give away your pigs….they said a kilogram was going to be R10…everybody complained that R10 was too little, and it is because of all the investments we made into our piggery businesses,” said Feni.
He added that they pushed us into a corner to say “we don’t have any other option…that they are our last option…that’s how it happened…we never wanted to agree to that but we thought about our business would suffer because the auction was also halted in our area due to this ASF.
“Auction is the main business for us…as much as we supply butchers but the auction is still our biggest market…so now we were now concerned that the action stopped in April. So if we did not agree to the actions, then the auction was not going to happen anytime soon….we were also hoping to bring in new pigs that were going to be sold in December so we just had to agree because they also threatened court orders and warrants and the SPCA will come and cull them for free…we just had to agree,” he said.
However, they do not like the approach at all,
“SAPPO is about developing emerging black farmers but the way they do things is very strange. I think they were supposed to ask us what is it that we feed our pigs …consider all our investments and compensate us based on that but they just seemed too happy to kill our pigs, said Feni.
About 3 farmers in his area refused for their pigs to be slaughtered and they haven’t been killed to this day.
The burning question at Prestige farming is if white farmers are also getting the same treatment as them there are double standards applied.
“We are now left with 35 that is ready for market…we produce our own feed…it’s like a foul play from commercial farmers to try and eliminate emerging farmers so that they can have a whole market to themselves and the only way is to capitalize on ASF….Our pigs were not affected…were not having any mortality but still, we were forced to slaughter.”
However, Prestige Farming said they understand that such diseases are bound but they are not satisfied with the whole process.
“What is the price they offer when they cull pigs at white people’s farms?
“I’m not trying to raise a racial question, but will they ever cull pigs of white farmers without first sharing the results of the tests with them? How soon do they even act in culling at their businesses,” asked a concerned Feni.
Keeping in mind that one of the government’s programmes and duties is to support and promote the stability and prosperity of emerging black farmers, Mzansi Agri Talk approached the office of the Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Agriculture to get some clarity.
We asked if the department offers any compensation for the affected farmers, if so how much is the department paying per kg for culled pigs.
Head of communications Ms Roleta Lebelo said the department doesn’t offer any compensation for ASF infected pigs at this point.
We further inquired if the current outbreak only affects previously disadvantaged farmers, and if so, what can be the reasons thereof?
Lebelo said the outbreak is mainly in the informal sector and at smaller farms.
The reason, she said, is due to the practice of free-roaming pigs, poor hygiene conditions under which the pigs are kept, buying of live pigs from sources that are not credible, feeding of swill, poor or lack of biosecurity practices by the informal sector.
Mzansi further asked if the department has future plans in helping affected farmers to restock, since many may not afford to do so.
Lebelo said that since most of these outbreaks come from pigs owners who are in informal settlements that are not zoned for agriculture or keeping of livestock, there are no such plans for them.
In terms of support regarding feed, we inquired if the department does have a database of farmers to be supported and for how long? And quantities per farmer and matrix used to determine the quantities?
Lebelo responded by saying that the disease is mainly in the informal areas and not related to feed, but more due to lack of biosecurity. According to the municipality by-laws, she said, these pigs’ owners are not supposed to keep pigs in the townships and informal settlements.
On whether the department being proactive or reactive to outbreaks of such nature like FMD, she said the department is pro-active in the surveillance and prevention of Animal Diseases by distributing awareness material, promotion of preventive medicine by advising farmers on when to vaccinate for the prevention of diseases.
She added that updated communication and awareness information is sent print and electronic regularly to the individual farmers and farmer organisations.
“Unfortunately, there is no treatment nor vaccine against ASF.”
Farmers United of South Africa (FUSA) president Ronnie McKenzie told Mzansi Agri Talk that ideally, DAFF should arrange with its sister departments such as Health, Education and Correctional services to procure the meat as an urgent matter where they are currently paying over R40/kg for pork to save emerging farmers.
“Those pigs could be taken to abattoirs to be slaughtered than being culled whilst they are not infected,” said McKenzie.