September 10, 2003



Chile Bans Argentine Beef Imports On Foot & Mouth Outbreak

Chile has temporarily suspended imports of Argentine beef due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in its neighbor across the Andes, Chile's government agriculture and livestock service, SAG, said late Monday.


It has stepped up controls and safety measures on its northern borders adjacent to the affected area as well as from Bolivia, where the disease has also appeared, it added.


SAG Director Carlos Parra met his Peruvian peer Elsa Carbonel to discuss joint efforts to prevent the disease's spread as both countries share borders with Bolivia besides their common border.


Chile's efforts contrast with comments from Argentine agriculture officials who had earlier said they didn't expect any more countries to ban its beef.


Canada, Japan, Mexico and the U.S. closed their borders to fresh Argentine beef since March 2001 after an outbreak.


In February, a Foreign Agricultural Service report estimated that Argentina's beef exports would rise 25% to 440,000 metric tons in 2003. The report assumed that Argentina would not have more problems with foot-and-mouth disease.


Chile imports a third of the beef it consumes, with Argentina, the world's number seven beef exporter, accounting for 19%, or some 9000 metric tons, of beef, out of the import total. Most beef is imported from the provinces of Santa Fe and Buenos Aires, away from the affected Salta region.


Brazil accounts for some 70% of the import total, and Uruguay 11%, as of May data.


Chile has been free of foot and mouth disease since 1981 except for two brief outbreaks in 1984 and 1987 "which were controlled but led to millions of dollars in losses, both direct and indirect," the SAG said.


The emergency measures come during a time where of traditionally strong demand for beef due to popular barbecues around Chile's Sept. 18 independence day holiday.


Despite the ban, beef prices are unlikely to rise beyond the usual seasonal increase due to the increased demand, Chilean Deputy Agriculture Minister Arturo Barrera said in a radio interview with Radio Cooperative Tuesday.


"Given that Argentina has been a minor supplier as of late and given that Brazil is the primary supplier together with Uruguay, we estimate that there won't be a rise beyond the norm for these weeks of September," he said.
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