News Briefs, Paraguay

Paraguay Cattle Health Scare Blamed On Human Error

November 8, 2011 By Erwin Cifuentes

Paraguayan health officials said this month “human error” led to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) that has seriously hurt the country’s vital cattle industry.

“After the most recent laboratory analysis, we have confirmed that the outbreak of foot and mouth disease… came about as a result of problems with the vaccination of animals,” admitted Daniel Rojas, head of Paraguay’s National Service for Animal Health and Quality, last week.

Rojas added that Paraguayan health authorities “have to identify at what stage in the process the problem occurred, determine who was responsible for the mistake and punish them.” Nevertheless, Rojas claimed that the “error was in the private sector” and that the federal government will more tightly enforce regulations in order to eradicate any remaining FMD in Paraguayan livestock.

His conclusion came after extensive lab tests by Brazilian and Argentine scientists using samples from the Santa Helena ranch where the outbreak started in September. Over one thousand heads of cattle were sacrificed in order to control the spread of FMD to other ranches in the rural farming department of San Pedro.

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo declared a health state of emergency in September for part of San Pedro while the exportation of all beef exports was temporarily halted. The ban was lifted last month after the outbreak was under control and no new cases were reported.

The roughly one-month long ban dealt a blow to a Paraguayan economy that was the highest growing in 2010. The meatpacking industry estimated its losses at between $300 million and $400 million. Furthermore, the central bank cut the country’s estimated economic growth this year by 0.3 percent as a result of the suspension.

Days after Rojas’ announcement Russia, the top buyer in Paraguayan beef during the first eight months this year, announced that they would remove their embargo on Paraguayan meat that had been placed due to the FMD outbreak. Yet it’s unclear how the beef will be shipped to Russia since Argentine and Uruguay officials warned that no meat tainted with FMD will be allowed to pass through their countries.

Despite the scare from the FMD outbreak, the government of Surinam has expressed interest in receiving increased imports of Paraguayan meat.

Paraguay is one of the world’s top exporters of beef and the country’s second-highest export industry behind soy. In addition, the livestock industry accounts for approximately 10 percent of Paraguay’s gross domestic product.

Image – Valerio Pillar @ Flickr.