Argentina has suspended the import of all meat products from Bolivia in response to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, Senasa, the agricultural health and quality service, announced Tuesday.
Argentina will "suspend the entrance of all goods for import or transit to third countries that might carry foot- and-mouth virus, originating in Bolivia," Senasa said in a release. The measures will include increased border checks of commercial shipments, passengers and baggage, in addition to disinfection of vehicles crossing the border, Senasa said. Foot-and-mouth disease has broken out at three sites in the Bolivian province of Santa Cruz, according to the release. On Monday, Paraguay also banned the import of Bolivian beef due to the outbreak. "The entrance of all animals potentially susceptible to the disease and products which carry a risk is totally prohibited, and disinfection is mandated for all vehicles crossing the border from our neighboring country," said the director of Paraguay's animal health and control service, Senacsa, according to local press reports. South America has been plagued with outbreaks of foot- and-mouth disease in recent years. In October 2005, a major outbreak occurred in Brazil's Mato Grosso do Sul State, home to Brazil's largest cattle herd. After the outbreak, 56 nations quickly moved to ban beef from Mato Grosso do Sul and neighboring states Parana and Sao Paulo. Last month, Israel was the first country to remove beef bans on Mato Grosso do Sul. However, producers aren't expected to be able to export beef again from Parana State until at least March 2007, according to the Agricultural Federation of Parana, or FAEP. In February 2006, Argentina experienced an outbreak of the disease in the Northern province of Corrientes that led many countries to block Argentine beef imports, although Singapore, Chile, Uruguay and Angola have recently lifted the import bans. Paraguay has been certified as free of the disease with vaccination since January 2005, and exports to more than 35 markets, according to the US Department of Agriculture. However, Argentine and Brazilian farmers assert that the disease enters from each country's porous border with Paraguay, where they claim controls are lax. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, Bolivia has only a few areas free from the disease. In 1994, Uruguay was declared free of the disease without vaccination. However, Uruguay lost the status after a recurrence of foot and mouth in 2001. Chile is the only country in the region certified as foot-and-mouth free without vaccination, a status it has enjoyed since 1981. The country takes advantage of this by exporting its meat for top dollar to countries such as Japan, Canada and the US, while importing cheaper meat for domestic consumption from neighboring Argentina. The suspected outbreak in Bolivia comes as an inspection team from the European Union is in Paraguay to certify the absence of foot-and-mouth disease in the country. The team will be in Paraguay until February 7 to verify foot-and-mouth vaccination and other sanitation issues, according to local press reports. Foot and mouth is an infectious virus affecting cattle, pigs and other animals with cloven hoofs. Although rarely fatal, it generally causes serious weight losses in affected livestock, greatly increasing production costs. Buenos Aires Herald
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