PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa has resumed beef exports to China after an outbreak of the highly contagious foot and mouth disease (FMD) in January halted trade, officials said on Tuesday.

The ban on exports of products from cloven hoofed animals to China was officially lifted on July 23, Chinese ambassador Lin Songtian said during a briefing.

The viral disease, which causes lesions and lameness in cattle and sheep, was detected in a northern district of Limpopo province, resulting in the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) temporarily suspending South Africa’s FMD-free status.

“We went to the abattoirs and sent a message back home that it was safe to resume export,” said the ambassador.

In March, countries including Mozambique, Lesotho, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates lifted the ban on exports from South Africa.

FMD does not affect people but poses a threat to cloven-hoofed animals – such as cattle, goats and sheep.

(Reporting by Onke Ngcuka; Writing by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)