ASUNCION (Reuters) – Paraguay halted beef exports until December and ordered the slaughter of hundreds of cattle yesterday after officials detected an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the beef-exporting nation.
The outbreak is a tough blow for the fast-growing beef industry in the South American country, a top 10 global exporter that had been expected to post record exports this year due to solid demand from key markets Russia and Chile. “The suspension (of exports) is for prudence, with the aim of guaranteeing the quality of the meat shipped abroad, until we determine if the outbreak is isolated or is in other areas too,” Carlos Simon, interim director of the national veterinary service Senacsa, told online paper Ultima Hora.
Shipments will be halted until Decem-ber, a measure industry figures said could cause losses of up to $400 million and help fellow South American beef exporters steal market share.
“During the rest of the year, we’re going to lose out on three months — exports will be zero,” Luis Pettengil, head of the Paraguayan Beef Chamber, told reporters. “We’re looking at (a loss of) about $300 million or $400 million.”
Officials ordered some 800 head of cattle be slaughtered to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease and declared a sanitary emergency in the area where the infected animals were found.
Foot-and-mouth is one of the world’s most serious infectious diseases of farmed animals and is regarded as a major economic threat in Europe.
While not harmful to humans, it causes lesions and crippling in cattle and sheep and can be passed on from infected cattle brought into a country and from wild animals such as deer — making it potentially difficult to contain.
The outbreak — Paraguay’s first in almost a decade — was detected in the department of San Pedro, some 185 miles (300 km) from the border with Brazil, the world’s top beef exporter.