MBABANE/GABORONE/HARARE (Reuters) – Botswana and the Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, have suspended meat imports from South Africa while Zimbabwe is in the process of setting up a ban due to the outbreak of the highly contagious foot and mouth disease.

The disease, which causes lesions and lameness in cattle and sheep, was detected in a northern district of Limpopo province, South Africa’s agriculture department announced this week.

eSwatini, which is heavily reliant on South Africa for food, and Botswana on Wednesday announced that they would ban products from cloven hoofed animals, joining Namibia which had suspended imports with immediate effect.

“We have strengthened our surveillance in collaboration with security agents and customs officials in all border posts,” Xolani Dlamini, director of veterinary services at the agriculture ministry, told Reuters late on Wednesday.

Botswana’s Agricultural Ministry said it would also halt the movement of cloven hoofed animals and their products from South Africa as well as transiting those products through Botswana.

Botswana is one of the largest beef exporters to the EU but has often suspended sales in the past due to foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreaks.

Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri told Reuters that they were also in the process of banning affected meat and livestock imports from South Africa but would give more detail in a statement later on Thursday.

“We are in the process of doing that. It’s going to be effective from today,” said Shiri.

Foot and mouth disease does not affect humans but poses a threat to cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, goats and sheep.

(Reporting by Lunga Masuku, MacDonald Dzirutwe; writing by Tanisha Heiberg and Jason Neely)