Outbreaks of Disease Cut World Meat Exports


This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

A United Nations report says outbreaks of animal disease could reduce world meat exports by one-third this year. The Food and Agriculture Organization says losses could reach ten-thousand-million dollars if import bans stay in place all year. And this does not include costs like the measures to control the current outbreaks in Asia, the United States and Canada.

In late February, the United States reported an outbreak of bird flu on a farm near San Antonio, Texas. The highly infectious virus was different from the one found earlier in the Northeast. But officials said there was no danger to the public in either case.

Texas officials immediately destroyed almost seven-thousand birds. Jim Rogers of the Animal and Plant Inspection Service at the United States Department of Agriculture says the outbreak is under control. He says no new cases have been reported. He says birds experience a flu season just like people do.

But the outbreak in Texas led the European Union to suspend all imports of live chickens, turkeys and eggs from the United States. The ban will remain at least until March twenty-third. One-third of world poultry exports come from the United States.

The world market in beef has also suffered, because of mad cow disease. Last year one case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was found in Canada and one in the United States. The United States and Canada hold a twenty-five percent share of the world beef market.

Last week Mexico agreed to reopen its border to some United States beef products. But many countries continue to ban imports of beef or chicken, or both. Some have banned chicken imports only from affected states.

Import bans can affect countries differently. Japan, for example, imports much of its chicken and beef. The result was an increase of forty-percent last month in the price of meat from pigs. Japan has also had its own problems with bird flu and mad cow disease. A third outbreak of flu virus H5N1 was reported late last month, this time at a farm in Kyoto. That is the virus that has killed more than twenty people in Vietnam and Thailand.

Concern about bird flu has affected even countries in Asia where the virus has not been reported. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says lower demand for chicken and eggs in India, for example, has cut prices there by one-third.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember.