Disease outbreaks halting a third of global meat exports-FAO

March 2, 2004, just-food.com: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that roughly one-third of global meat exports, or 6 million metric tons, are currently being affected by animal disease outbreaks.

Deadly bird-flu in Japan

March 2, 2004, just-food.com: Japan has announced its third outbreak of bird flu. Birds infected by the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain were diagnosed last week at a poultry farm in the Kyoto prefecture.

The National Institute of Animal Health confirmed that the strain effecting the Kyoto birds was in fact the feared H5N1 strain, which has affected many parts of Asia in recent weeks and has caused the deaths of over 20 people, reported Kyodo News.

Recent bird flu outbreaks in two other Japanese prefectures were also caused by the H5N1 strain. The first outbreak was reported in mid January at a farm in Yamaguchi, while the second was found in mid February in Oita. There have so far been no reports of humans catching the disease in Japan.

These outbreaks could result in world trade losses up to $10bn* if import bans continue throughout 2004.

The impact on small poultry producers in Asia may be considerable, with over 100 million birds estimated to have died or have been culled over the past two months. In particular, the impact of import bans on export-dependent countries, such as Thailand, which has culled around 36 million birds or 25% of its domestic flocks, will increase the vulnerability of small producers as local prices drop sharply.

BSE and Avian flu

In the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), countries around the world have banned beef imports from the US and Canada. The US and Canada account for more than one-quarter of global beef exports (around 1.6 million tons, valued at approximately $4bn). US beef exports, after reaching 1.2 million tons in 2003, are expected to drop to 100,000 tons in 2004 if bans remain in place for the entire year, the US Department of Agriculture estimated.

Both Canada and the US, in addition to 10 Asian countries, have reported outbreaks of bird flu. These countries account for 4 million tons or 50% of world exports of poultry meat (with the US accounting for nearly 35%), the FAO said.

While avian flu outbreaks in North America are not reported in commercial flocks, any prolonged ban on US exports, which constitute 15% of domestic production, will put downward pressure on all US meat prices.

As a result of poultry and beef import bans, the FAO expects the demand for substitutes such as pork to increase significantly. This is already visible in Japan where shortages of beef and chicken have led to pork prices surging 40% in February following import bans on US beef and Asian poultry.

* Figure based on global meat and live animal trade estimated at US$33bn (excluding trading amongst EU member states).