Argentina will formally request next month before the Paris based International Office of Epizooties that the country be considered free of foot and mouth disease with vaccination.
Mr. Bernardo Cané, president of the Argentine Agro-food Sanitary and Quality National Service, SENASA, said that if accepted the initiative will have a "commercial and symbolic" significance for Argentina following the FAM outbreak two years ago that seriously hindered the country's beef exports and international standing.
The presentation is based on the fact that during the last 18 months no new outbreaks were reported and the 52 million head of Argentine cattle have been vaccinated five times in that period.
The vaccination campaign involved 211,000 farms but not in Patagonia, since below parallel 42 the area is internationally considered free of FAM without vaccination. Mr. Cané said that the FAM eradication program has meant that 62 of the 77 markets for Argentine beef of March 2001, when the outbreak was officially recognized, have been recovered and reopened. Argentina is estimated to have lost 500 million US dollars because of the FAM outbreak. "Of the 2,100 recorded outbreaks in 2001, in six months we were down to nil. Besides we're helping with vaccines and expertise our neighbors Paraguay and Bolivia, where the disease originally erupted", added M. Cané.
Mr. Cané is expected to travel to the United States in the coming days to participate in an Animal Health Congress and to invite the US Agriculture Department to send a sanitary delegation to inspect Argentine abattoirs. However Mr. Cané admits there's a creditability gap yet to be filled since the then administration of President Fernando De la Rúa only admitted to the existence of a FAM outbreak in March 2001, when it actually was first detected in August 2000.
Besides there's an ongoing debate among Argentine farmers if the country should, once reached the status of free of FAM with vaccination, attempt as in the late nineties to be catalogued as free of FAM without vaccination. "When we stopped vaccinating against FAM everything went wrong", argues Mr. Arturo Lavallol president of the Argentine Beef Promotion Institute. The International Office of Epizooties is a FAO dependency with 164 country members who decide on animal health and veterinary regulations.