Mercosur, plus Chilean and Bolivian sanitary officials and farmers have declared a regional warning following reports of limited cases of foot and mouth disease in several countries of the area.
During a meeting held this week in Montevideo, Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil; Formosa, Corrientes and Entre Ríos in Argentina; Bolivia; plus border areas with Paraguay were declared "critical zones", with cattle, sheep and pigs in these areas virtually isolated from the rest of the block.
Frontiers for any beef, mutton or pork made goods have been closed, and strict customs controls are effective in airports, ports and land crossings.
At the meeting it was also decided to coordinate regional investigation as to the origin of the different cases reported, (in Brazil sheep and pigs were also sacrificed), further viral research, and if considered necessary, request foreign technical and financial assistance to eliminate the disease.
But in spite of the coordination effort, recrimination is also strong: Argentina openly blames Paraguay, while Paraguayans argue that the Argentines are furious because it took them weeks to detect contaminated cattle.
However facts indicate that probably Paraguay is the culprit since it's known this country has a booming smuggling industry.
Chile and Uruguay so far are completely free with no cases reported. Booming beef sales
Booming beef sales
Uruguayan beef sales to Japan are booming. The now strong and steady trade begun in 1998 with a mere 750.000 US dollars.
In '99 sales jumped to five million US dollars and in the first six months of the current year Japan has purchased over 11 million US dollars of Uruguayan beef.
Figures were made public this week during the official inauguration of the Japanese stand in Uruguay's main Agricultural Show in the Prado grounds of Montevideo.
Uruguay was declared free of foot and mouth disease by the International Office of Epizooty in Paris in 1995.
Since then sales to limited markets such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Korea have increased steadily. Legislative paralysis
Argentine Economy Minister José Machinea admitted publicly this week that the Senate crisis could