Disease fears hitting meat exports hard, FAO says

Mar 2, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Animal disease outbreaks and concerns, including avian influenza and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), are currently reducing global meat and animal exports by about one third, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

"Approximately one-third of global meat exports, or 6 million tonnes, are presently being affected by animal disease outbreaks," the FAO said. "With the value of global meat and live animal trade estimated at $33 billion (excluding EU [European Union] intra-trade), this could amount to world trade losses of up to $10 billion, if import bans extend throughout 2004."

The losses are mainly affecting 12 countries that are facing export bans or market constraints as a result of concerns about avian flu and BSE, the FAO said. The estimated losses do not include costs of public disease-control measures, losses to producers and consumers due to unstable markets and prices, and general costs to industry.

Countries around the world have banned beef imports from the United States and Canada since the discovery of one BSE case in each country last year. The two countries account for more than a quarter of global beef exports, amounting to about 1.6 million metric tons and worth about $4 billion annually, the FAO said.

US beef exports are expected to drop from 1.2 million metric tons in 2003 to 100,000 metric tons this year if bans continue all year, according to US Department of Agriculture figures cited by the FAO.

The FAO said Canada, the United States, and nine Asian countries currently dealing with avian flu together account for half of world exports of poultry meat. Both the United States and Canada have had recent outbreaks of avian flu, though not the H5N1 variety that has spread to humans in Asia.

Because of the bans on poultry and beef imports, the FAO said it expects the demand for substitutes such as pork to surge. In Japan, pork prices increased 40% in February following bans on US beef and Asian poultry, the agency said.

Consumption patterns even in countries not directly affected by avian flu are changing, the FAO noted. In India, for example, chicken prices have dropped by a third because of the widespread concern in Asia about avian flu.

See also:

Mar 2 FAO statement

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