US - America’s farmers are “extremely disappointed” at a US government decision to allow beef imports from regions of Brazil and Argentina because of fears over foot and mouth disease risk.
A ban has, in the last week, been lifted on fresh and frozen beef from northern Argentina, fourteen states in Brazil and on beef and ovine meat from Uruguay.
Brazil could ship up to 100,000 tonnes of beef to the US in the next five years, said Brazil’s ministry of agriculture.
Leading protest from US farmers, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) decision could bring “devastating consequences for American family farmers and ranchers”.
In letters to APHIS, Mr Johnson gave reasons why Argentina and Brazil represented a “substantial threat” to US food safety, even after fifteen year bans.
He said the “very real possibility” of transmission of FMD to US livestock could lead to eroded consumer confidence in US food supplies.
He wrote that Argentina had made “multiple unsuccessful attempts to eradicate and control FMD” since the epidemic outbreak of 2001 and that producer confidence in Brazilian safety had been eroded by “inconsistencies” between APHIS and the World Organisation for Animal Health.
He recalled a US Food and Drug administration decision to condemn Brazilian cooked and canned meat in 2010 due to drug contamination.
He wrote: “Brazil has not been able to prevent the spread of FMD into its border from neighbouring countries,” adding that an FMD outbreak occurred in Paraguay in 2011. He noted that the fourteen states, while classed as “FMD-free” by the OIE, require regular vaccinations.
He emphasised the cost of outbreaks to the UK in 2001 and cited a Kansas State University study which valued the damage of the 2004 US FMD outbreak at around $3-$4 billion.
South American ministers, meanwhile, have welcomed the development. Brazil’s livestock minister, Katia Abreu, likened fresh and frozen beef access as having a "password" for other markets.
Brazil is confident of securing trade with the US, adding to the processed beef and offal exports which totalled $229.16 million in 2014.
Argentinian minsters say the move demonstrates hard work on food safety has paid off and insist APHIS risk assessments have demonstrated their meat “can be imported safely”.
However, the NFU has warned that an FMD outbreak similar to the UK epidemic in 2001 would, according to a Purdue University study, cost the US $14 billion in farm income (in 2002 dollars).
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