“We see the role of veterinary teams, through provision of primary animal health services, as the first line of defence in ensuring a healthy national herd and flock,” Zokwana said in a speech prepared for delivery in Irene, outside Pretoria.
He was speaking at the opening of the SA Veterinary Council building.
In remote areas, the flocks of subsistence and smallholder farmers, which increased 58 percent since 2009, carried most of the livestock disease load, Zokwana said.
“It is these farmers who we seek to support and ensure that they succeed and grow to reach commercialisation of their enterprises and to contribute to our ability to feed the nation.”
In 20 years of democracy, South Africa had not secured universal access to veterinary services.
Steps towards resolving this included the deployment of 140 newly-qualified veterinarians in rural areas, as well as improvements in rural infrastructure.
Zokwana said the sectors of agriculture, forestry and fisheries were charged with ensuring food security, job creation and increasing contribution to the gross domestic product of the country.
“Access to meat, access to eggs for breakfast, access to fresh milk for morning tea and, may [I] add, access to fresh fish, are but some of the issues that… we see as deliverables from your sector’s input.
“We need to increase production for household food security and generate surpluses that we can trade with neighbouring countries.”
Zokwana said trade interruptions due to outbreaks of avian influenza had cost South Africa around R4 billion.
“A similar amount had been mentioned with regard to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak of 2011, which has thankfully been resolved.”
On job creation, he said President Jacob Zuma had instructed the farming sector to create a million jobs by 2030.
“Your contribution in creating harmonious conditions in the human-animal-environment interface to create these jobs in the livestock and aquaculture space is greatly being anticipated.”