Foot-and-mouth disease has continued to spread in Brazil, dashing the world’s largest beef producer’s hopes of a swift return to normal exports.
Supermarket Tesco has suspended all sales of Brazilian beef following F&M outbreaks in the country’s main beef-producing areas.
The first case of the disease for more than a year was confirmed in the south-west state of Mato Grosso do Sul last week.
About 150 animals were infected and 580 cattle were culled (News, 14 October).
The ministry of agriculture in Brasilia hoped this prompt action, together with the imposition of a 25km restriction zone, would contain the disease.
But this week it issued a statement confirming three more cases.
One of the outbreaks, involving a farm with 3500 cattle, is understood to be close to the first outbreak in the municipality of Eldorado.
But the other two are further away, in Japora, close to the border with Paraguay.
Following the initial outbreak, Brussels imposed an immediate ban on beef exports from Mato Grosso do Sul, plus the neighbouring states of Sao Paulo and Parana. Other big importers, including Russia and Chile, have also banned shipments.
The three affected states account for about 90% of Brazil’s beef exports, so the restrictions will put a big dent in the sector’s earnings.
UK farm organisations have praised the EU Commission’s swift response.
“We cannot take any chances with foot-and-mouth,” said Ulster Farmers’ Union president Campbell Tweed.
“It proved to have serious consequences when it emerged in Northern Ireland in 2001.”
National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said UK beef prices should see some benefit from the problems facing the Brazilian beef sector.
“The loss of the Russian market is the main thing,” he said.
“This will provide an opportunity for Irish producers in particular to pick up their contracts, which in turn will ease pressure on the UK.”