Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

FAO and Republic of Korea helping Southeast Asia fight a cross-border cattle disease

Bangkok, Thailand, 12 Jun 2012 -- With the livelihoods of millions of farmers across Southeast Asia threatened by a rise in the spread of Foot-and-Mouth Disease, agriculture experts and government officials from 11 countries and international organizations are mapping out strategies to contain this infectious livestock disease from spreading across borders at a workshop in Bangkok this week organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Livestock are essential to small farmers across Southeast Asia, and livestock raising and products provide a significant contribution to economies in the region. Demand for livestock products is projected to rise between 3.5 and 4 percent a year this decade. Cross-border trade in cattle has been growing, with most brought into Viet Nam and Thailand where consumption demand is high. A by-product of this growing trade, however, is the increasing spread of infectious livestock diseases.

The most prevalent is Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), which affects cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and buffalo. Outbreaks of FMD negatively impact economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security.

“The adverse socio-economic impacts of FMD are significant in Southeast Asia, particularly in developing countries where the livestock sector shapes prospects for economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security”, Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO regional representative told the workshop.

The workshop will serve to launch a project which supports countries in the Southeast Asian region to apply the Progressive Control Pathway (PCP), an approach developed by FAO to measure and monitor the effectiveness of efforts taken by countries to control the spread of FMD.

The regional project is funded by the Republic of Korea, a country which due to its experience in handling its recent FMD outbreaks os now sharing its knowledge and experiences with the Southeast Asian region.

 “This project aims to deepen friendly relations and explore cooperation models with focus countries Cambodia , Laos PDR and Viet Nam, as well as other ASEAN countries", Sungchul Shin, Republic of Korea’s economic counsellor to Thailand told the workshop today.

The project aims to assist countries to apply PCP and adopt a structured process for disease risk measurement and management. Countries that successfully implement programme measures will be able to apply for recognition that they are disease free, a country status that will allow for boosting trade, increasing government revenues, and incomes for farmers.

“The impact of FMD falls disproportionately on the poor populations, in the form of production and marketing losses, reductions in household income and hindering the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, Mr Konuma added.

Most small farmers lack understanding of the risks of FMD and sometimes resist control measures out of fear they will incur financial charges, be subject to restrictions and limit their opportunities to trade through official or formal channels.

Informal trade, however, increases the risk and transmission of livestock diseases in importing and transit countries. A regional approach to control with cooperation from all countries, therefore, is needed.