MBABANE (Reuters) – ESwatini has suspended animal imports from neighboring South Africa for a second time this year following another outbreak of foot and mouth disease, the mountain kingdom’s agricultural ministry said on Tuesday.

In January, eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, joined Botswana and Zimbabwe in suspending meat imports from South Africa over an outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease that affects cloven-footed animals – those with divided hooves such as cows, pigs and sheep.

Zimbabwe reactivated its ban last week.

Principal Secretary in eSwatini’s Ministry of Agriculture, Bongani Masuku, said government wanted to protect its citizens from the disease and that it would only lift the ban once the situation had improved.

South Africa’s live animal exports to eSwatini totalled 458.9 million rand ($31 million) between January and September, according to Statistics SA.

South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries confirmed the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the northern Limpopo province last Wednesday, saying it had placed one farm in the area under quarantine to prevent the disease from spreading.

(Reporting by Lunga Masuku; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Alex Richardson)