CAPE TOWN, Feb 17 (Reuters) - South Africa has lifted a two-month ban on livestock auctions that halted trade in cattle, sheep and other animals following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Limpopo late last year, the agriculture minister said on Monday.
In January, an auctioneer was arrested on suspicion of violating the ban implemented on Dec. 4 by selling animals from the northern province, the epicentre of the latest outbreak that led neighouring countries including Zimbabwe to ban South African animal imports.
However, exports continued to other key markets China and the Middle East. South Africa's livestock auction industry, which includes game such as kudu, is estimated to be worth some 81 billion rand ($5.44 billion) a year.
The viral disease, which causes lesions and lameness in cattle, sheep and other cloven-hoofed animals but does not affect people, was detected for a second time in November after a previous outbreak in January last year.
Announcing the lifting of the auction ban, Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said some affected farms remain quarantined and any future livestock auctions would need the necessary permits and documentation to trade. ($1 = 14.8950 rand) (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Helen Popper)
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