Government has suspended the slaughter of 23 000 cattle infected with the Foot and Mouth Disease in Zones 6 and 7 in the North East and Bobirwa areas respectively, and will instead sell them to Zimbabwe.
Botswana government has brokered a deal with the Zimbabwean government to buy the cattle in the affected areas.
The planned sale of the cattle to Zimbabwe was confirmed by Chief Agriculture Information Officer, Boikhutso Rabasha, in a telephone interview on Monday.
“I can confirm that the cattle will be sold to Zimbabwe once the necessary logistics have been concluded”, said Rabasha, who added that they were not yet sure of the actual number of cattle that would be sold.
She did, however, confirm that government had initially intended to kill 21 000 cattle in Zone Six and a further 2000 in Zone Seven.
Rabasha said only vaccinated cattle will be sold to Zimbabwe.
She added that the epidemic has been spreading to more areas as it has been diagnosed in Matshelagabedi in Zone Six and Tshokwe in Zone Seven.
The number of infected animals in Zone Seven has increased to 4 500 from the initial 2000 that were diagnosed with the disease in Robelela.
Rabasha maintained the actual number of cattle that would be sold to Zimbabwe has not yet been determined although an agreement has been reached.
It is also not clear whether the said animals will be slaughtered once in Zimbabwe.
Government had decided that it would compensate the farmers P1700 per animal when they were killed in an effort to eradicate the disease. Rabasha said the decision to sell the cattle to Zimbabwe has not affected the compensation rate.
The killing of cattle in Zone Six would have been the second exercise after the first exercise was carried out in 2002/03 when the area was hit by the same epidemic. Government recently took a decision to take the FMD war to Zimbabwe by way of vaccinating the infected cattle in that country which is the source of the disease.
When the decision to help Zimbabwe vaccinate the cattle under the supervision of Botswana veterinary officials was taken, Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan De Graaff, had explained that the Northern neighbour had already ordered 600 000 doses of FMD vaccine and 200 000 of the doses had already been supplied by the Botswana Vaccine Institute.
Government had in addition offered more doses of the FMD vaccine although De Graaff had not stated the quantities when he addressed the affected farmers at Matsiloje village in the North East District.
The minister feared that if government did not intervene and assist Zimbabwe, 200 000 cattle were threatened with infection in Zone Six and the potential spread of the disease to other areas, which would be accompanied by huge social and economic consequences.
Meanwhile,┬á De Graaff, his Permanent Secretary, Dr Micus Chimbombi, and Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Phillemon Motsu, are expected to address kgotla meetings this week in Selibe-Phikwe, Tshokwe, Robelela, Matsiloje and Matopi.