List of Countries Banning Argentine Beef Grows as Health Officials Search for Cause of Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FAM) in the northeaster province of Corrientes, Argentina, has prompted a host of countries to ban beef and other animal produce imports from the country.In an effort to avert an economic disaster, health officials are desperately trying to identify the source of the outbreak that has already caused Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru to suspend beef imports from Argentina.

“The consequences of the FAM outbreak can be very serious and comes as a surprise for of us since we had a good sanitary condition and prevention tasks were working smoothly,” said Luciano Miguens, president of the Argentine Rural Society.

Osvaldo Benitez Meabe, president of the Corrientes Cattle breeders association called the situation “dramatic” since “the province has 4.9 million head of cattle and the FAM outbreak will have an impact in the whole economy”. He claims that he personally saw the vaccination certificate of the farm where the outbreak occurred and “every thing was in due form.”

Two theories for the outbreak being investigated are either the cold storage conditions of the vaccines failed in Corrientes, or cattle were smuggled into the country without having been vaccinated.

The second theory, however, does not seem to be very plausible, considering the relative isolated location of the farm. The problem is, however, that the vaccination process also seems to have been carried out very carefully. A similar outbreak of foot and mouth occurred in Argentina in 2001.

While the six-country ban is already hurting the Argentine economy, the real concern is that Russia will join the list. In 2005, Russia was responsible for 30% of Argentina’s beef exports (about $$420 million of a total of $1.4 billion) and should it too prohibit the importing of Argentine beef, the result could be disastrous.

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