An estimated 5.000 workers will be left redundant for two months and losses could easily reach 300 million dollars because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Paraguay that has banned exports, revealed Wednesday Luis Pettengill, president of the country’s Meat Chamber.
The 5.000 workers belong to the abattoirs that have been forced to cease all activities and the immediate losses refer to the 180 trucks loaded with frozen beef that have been stopped before entering Chile or are travelling somewhere across Argentina.
“In the best of circumstances the stoppage of the meat industry will be at least 90 days. There might be some marginal market to export still open, but you will see ten abattoirs competing for that minimum portion”, said Pettengill.
The Paraguayan Chamber of Meat met with the country’s Animal Health and Quality Services to coordinate contingent actions in the area where the outbreak has been reported and which in a first stage will demand the elimination of over 1.200 head of cattle.
“Abattoirs are telling staff to take their 2011 and 2012 annual vacations, 15 to 30 days but they are also requesting a review of labour contracts for a period extending from 30 to 60 days”, said Pettengill.
“Cattle prices will have to drop and probably some smaller overseas markets which were offering cheaper prices when livestock was too dear might be interested, but it’s all conditional”.
Pettengill estimated that exports could resume in 90 days but to second priced markets such as Angola, Africa, Israel, and Venezuela and only in six months at the least “will we be able to reactivate the important markets”.
This means that the 70 million dollars per month losses, for at least the next three months should be added another three at half the income, “that’s how we arrive at the 300 million dollars figure, without including all the subsidiary effects the slowdown of the industry will have”, said the CPA president.
Another sensitive issue is that landlocked Paraguay must negotiate with Argentina transit conditions, since the country is now isolated by air, river and land, pointed out Pettengill.
Argentina’s veterinary health officials declared a “state of sanitary alert” and intensified controls at Paraguay border crossings. According to Argentina’s Official Gazette, the alert will affect “the whole national territory due the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak detected in the Paraguayan district of San Pedro”.
This means Argentina has suspended imports of all products from Paraguay that could facilitate the entrance of the virus into the country.
This creates an additional problem because of the 180 fridge trucks with an estimated 4.500 tons of beef blocked at the Chilean border, even when the beef was dispatched at least three weeks before the outbreak report.
“Let’s hope we can reach an agreement with Chile and Argentina”, underlined the Paraguayan meat dealer.
When asked about the causes for the outbreak Pettengill said that at the moment it was more important “to stamp out the fire than finding culprits”, but discarded problems with the vaccination.
“I’m no expert, but it is simple logics. If we have 13 million head of cattle and they all use the same vaccine, how do you explain that a small batch went wrong?
Meantime veterinary officials and experts are working in the area isolated because of the outbreak and said it was ‘premature’ to blame the vaccine.
“We’ve checked that all the vaccine doses had been correctly certified, and the farmer involved complied with the vaccination calendar on time and form, so honestly it’s too early and we don’t know why the FMD outbreak” said Carlos Simon Carlos Simón Van Humbeck, head of the Animal Quality and Health Services.
The outbreak was confirmed in 13 cattle last Sunday and all livestock which was in contact has been terminated. Another 800 head were to be sacrificed in coming hours, reported the veterinary officials.