HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has banned the movement of cattle in the southern part of the country near the South African border after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, the deputy minister of agriculture said on Monday.
Zimbabwean farmers and communities living near wildlife parks are at risk of foot and mouth, which led to the country losing its quota to export 9,100 tonnes of beef to the European Union in 2001.
Foot and mouth is a highly contagious and often fatal disease that affects domestic livestock such as cattle, pigs, goats and sheep and can be transmitted from wild buffalo.
Deputy agriculture minister Paddy Zhanda told Reuters the government was vaccinating all cattle in the affected and neighboring areas.
"We have then created a buffer zone where we want to restrict the movement of the outbreak into new areas," Zhanda said.
Zhanda said dry conditions following a drought meant cattle had to move long distances in search of water and pasture, making it difficult to control the disease.
South Africa's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it had met officials from Zimbabwe and Botswana over the disease outbreak, but had been assured it was under control.
South Africa was hit by a foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2011 and was only certified as being free from the disease in February 2014.
"A number of markets were lost, some of which have still not been opened yet. The South African livestock industry cannot afford another setback at present," the department said.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley)