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New Strain of FMD Cripples Livestock Sector

26 March 2012

EGYPT - Egyptian beef production is expected to fall in 2012, whilst imports will increase due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD), according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

The strain of FMD is SAT2, which Egyptian cattle have not been exposed to before and so have not been vaccinated against.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR) has announced that the number of infected cases was 33,000 and the mortality was 5,400 head, a high mortality rate of 16.4 per cent.

The number of suspected cases is growing at a rate of 5000 per day while the number of deaths is growing at 500 head per day.

It is not known how the new strain has entered the country but some sources and government officials suspect that smuggled shipments of infected sheep and cattle from Libya came across the lengthy border.

The FMD outbreak comes at a time when the government seeks to increase meat production.

It is expected that the main impacts of the FMD outbreak will be on the calf crop of small farmers and on the slaughter weight of market cattle. Losses of older cattle will also be significant.

The calf crop is forecast to decrease by 18 per cent to 1,402 thousand head compared to 1,708 thousand head in 2011.

In 2006, Egypt experienced a major FMD outbreak resulting in the loss of nearly one million head of cattle. If the SAT2 strain continues with the same increasing mortality rates and there are no vaccinations, the impact will be as high or higher than what it was in 2006. The breakdown in security in the country will make it difficult to enforce movement controls on cattle. The disease has already been detected in 24 of 27 governorates.

FMD is expected to have a greater impact on small farmers because they have less access to vaccines and veterinary treatment. Egypt has mobilized 1,500 veterinary teams and is attempting to purchase SAT2 vaccines to deal with the outbreak.

Virtually Egypt’s entire livestock herd, both cattle and buffalo, is maintained primarily for dairy production (small farmers raise dairy buffalo), with meat production of secondary importance.

Milk production became one of the most profitable industries in the agricultural sector in Egypt due to the large amount of milk products required by the Egyptian diet (cheese and yogurt). One industry source estimates that an additional 20,000 Holstein cows were in production this year.

A major multinational yogurt processor is opening up a very large production facility near Sadat City. The FMD outbreak is expected to have a minimal impact on large dairy producers as they should be able to acquire SAT2 vaccines.

Imports of live cattle and beef are forecast to increase in 2012 to bridge the growing gap between domestic consumption and production, but beef imports will be restrained by poor economic conditions and potential trade financing difficulties.

Consumption and imports of frozen beef are forecast to increase in 2012 due to low meat production and relatively high prices of local beef. With overall beef supplies down, beef prices should remain high.

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