A three-year ban on South African red meat has been lifted, authorities confirmed on Tuesday.
This came after the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in Paris declared that South Africa's status as a country free of the foot-and-mouth disease has been reinstated, according to the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The OIE's scientific commission had concluded that South Africa now complied with the Terrestrial Animal Health Code after taking corrective measures, the Cape Times newspaper said.
"I am please to inform you that the status of its foot and mouth-free zone... is thus re-instated as of 14 February 2014 for the zone of South Africa... I congratulate you for the very positive achievement on the foot and mouth situation in your country," Bernard Vallat, OIE Director General, reportedly wrote to the DAFF last week.
The ban was imposed in February 2011 after an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease. As a result, the South African red meat industry lost an estimated four billion rand (about 360 million US dollars) annually.
Edith Vries, director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), described the suspension of the ban as "good news for which the government should be credited".
A team of experts from the OIE would visit South Africa in December to check that the measures the department had taken to combat the disease had been fully implemented in the foot and mouth control area of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, according to the Cape Times.
Gerhard Schutte, chief executive of the South African Red Meat Producers' Organization, told the paper that this was the best news he had heard in many years.
"It's such good news not only for the red meat industry, but for the stud industry, the wool and milk industry. All of them have had problems because of losing the foot and mouth-free status. The wool industry had great problems trying to get their wool into China... And the stud animals, mainly cattle but sheep too, they can now go to neighboring countries."