Friday, April 30, 2010

Foot and Mouth disease hits Asia

AN OUTBREAK of foot and mouth disease in Japan and a further outbreak in South Korea have dealt a blow to the Asian livestock industry.

The discoveries of FMD have heightened fears the disease is on the move.

For the first time in a decade, China, Japan and Korea all have simultaneous outbreaks of FMD.

Up to 50,000 animals have been destroyed in South Korea since January as the country tries to control the spread of the disease.

The latest case, found in Chunju late last week, has already seen 12,600 livestock culled in a 3km radius of the affected farm and more animals are expected to be killed this week.

It is the first case to be reported in the northwest of the country.

The most recent cull adds to the 30,000 head destroyed at the start of the month, two-thirds of which were pigs.

Meat and Livestock Australia regional manager in Korea Jim Lim said there was still no evidence that beef consumption had dropped.

A briefing note prepared by Mr Lim's staff said there were media reports suggesting beef consumption had been affected, with consumers turning to seafood, but this had not been confirmed.

"We have not heard that Australian beef consumption or sales have been affected," Mr Lim said.

The Korean Government has asked farmers not to visit high risk areas in China, Japan and Vietnam in a further attempt to stop the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Japan has suspended all beef, pork and related byproduct exports last week after the FMD outbreak was discovered.

At least 11 countries have had FMD outbreaks in the past 16 months alone with the disease endemic or established across four continents.

In 2009, FMD outbreaks were reported in Angola, Botswana, China, Egypt, Nigeria, Palestine, South Africa, Vietnam and South Korea.

So far this year, there have been outbreaks in the same countries as well as Japan and Nigeria.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported the outbreak on a cattle farm in Miyazaki, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan.

The last time Japan had an FMD outbreak was in 2000, in the same area.

"The Government will take every measure to prevent the disease from spreading further," Japanese Agriculture minister Hirotaka Akamatsu said last week.

According to MLA data, Japanese beef exports - primarily premium Wagyu beef - grew by 108 per cent over the last two years, to 565 tonnes in 2009, valued at $51 million, or an average of $91/kg.

Japan's major export markets were Vietnam, Hong Kong and the US.

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