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Economic Impacts of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Outbreaks in the Republic of Korea

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks occurred in the Republic of Korea (ROK), in January and March of 2010. Yet another FMD outbreak was reported on 29 November 2010, presenting many challenges in the control of the disease. The disease is extremely contagious with multiple-host species which can be infected. It causes serious economic losses and directly impacts on producers and those whose livelihoods are connected to the livestock industry.

 

Losses to agriculture and to the food chain were calculated for the 2001 FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom. The estimated loss to agriculture was approximately five billion USD. The majority of these costs were met by Government for compensation, disposal and clean-up costs. Additional losses suffered by producers included delay in returning to full production and were estimated to represent about 20% of the total income from farming in 2001. Industries supplying agriculture and the food industries, and especially tourism, also suffered losses (Thompson D, et al., 2002).

 

Economic issues in the Republic of Korea
The Republic of Korea has been experiencing an ongoing outbreak in cattle and swine since 29 November 2010. As of 15 February 2011, 147 outbreaks in six provinces and four major cities have been reported. About 3.37 million pigs, cows, goats and deer have been culled and buried at a cost of almost two billion USD in direct expenses and compensation to the farmers. Indirectly, there is also a loss of market for associated supplies to the cattle and swine industries (including feed, bedding, transportation and loss of sales of animal health products).

 

Issues influencing the high economic impact

The Republic of Korea traditionally consumes 70% of pork domestically. Locally, more pork is consumed than any other protein source. The shortage has caused pork prices to rise. In addition, there was an increased demand for meat associated with the Lunar New Year, when meat is consumed as part of the celebrations. To address these concerns, tariffs were dropped on imports to increase affordability of the meat.

 

The initial outbreak response used quarantine and stamping out. The outbreak spread, through direct and indirect pathways, moving the virus more quickly than eradication efforts could address. One month into the outbreak a decision to vaccinate cattle was implemented and two weeks later vaccination of swine commenced in affected provinces and cities. Soon afterwards, a decision was made to vaccinate cattle and swine in cities and provinces not yet affected. A second round of vaccinations is likely to be completed by the end of February 2011.

 

Minimizing the economic impact of an FMD outbreak and effectively managing the response requires an intimate knowledge of the animal industry affected and an epidemiological understanding of the risks and potential pathways of transmission of the virus. The virus may move through direct contact and indirectly through the associated animal and food industry supportive services. Rapid decisions for the use of response tools is essential, including whether vaccination is needed, in conjunction with a consistent and concerted use of biosecurity measures throughout.