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Marketing and trade / Socio-economics

More than any other animal disease, FMD has its major impact on trade; FMD status determines to a remarkable degree whether animals and animal products derived from specific locations can gain access to regional and international markets. Bearing in mind that FMD is generally not a lethal disease, vaccines and other control measures are available and, currently, the disease is not globally eradicable (despite what some international organizations propagate in this respect), the present approach is not rational. It also needs to be acknowledged that import bans on products due to the ostensible risk of importing FMD have often been used as a (unjustifiable) non-tariff trade barrier.

FMD’s reputation as a devastating disease is derived largely from experiences of the developed world in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries when it was found that developing intensive production systems were uneconomic in the face of repeated outbreaks of FMD. Countries in North America, western Europe and the Pacific Rim began to develop eradication strategies that were bye-and-large successful, albeit expensive and logistically difficult. At the same time, care was taken to ensure that FMD viruses were not reintroduced from outside the country and from there it was a short step to insisting that animals and animal products were only imported from countries and regions free from FMD. This meant that any locality where FMD was endemic was excluded from exporting animals and their products to high-value markets. This stance was to some extent ameliorated by permitting countries to establish FMD-free zones (regions) from which exports were permitted and some southern African countries continue to exploit this opportunity. However, the presence of wildlife populations in or near livestock farming areas precludes this approach for many localities in eastern and southern Africa. The situation is, furthermore, likely to deteriorate because of biodiversity conservation initiatives based on TFCAs which seek to re-establish the connectedness and migration patterns of wildlife populations (SADC, 2008). Therefore, the historic clash between livestock development and conservation in southern Africa will likely exacerbate in future unless new approaches are developed.

In an attempt to address this problem in sub-Saharan Africa it has been proposed that risk management can be made more effective through a commodity-based approach (Thomson et al., 2004b). This is founded on the concept that the risk of spreading FMD and other transboundary animal diseases can be achieved through ensuring that traded products of animal origin are produced in ways that minimize the risk of their spreading FMD or other infectious agents. This need not necessarily be dependent on the FMD status of the source location (although, of course, only products derived from healthy animals may enter the human food chain). Basically there are more ways of managing risk of food products posing a minimal FMD risk than sourcing them from FMD-free localities. The case for de-boned beef being a ‘very safe’ commodity in respect of FMD and other transboundary animal diseases has been addressed in a scientific publication (Thomson et al., 2009) and a report conducted on behalf of the OIE (Paton, 2010). This has been accepted by the OIE which provides an international standard through which export of deboned beef from cattle and domestic buffaloes (Bubalis sp.) can be traded safely (Article 8.5.25 of Terrestrial Animal Health Code – www.oie.int). The same principle can be applied to many dairy and other processed meat products (Thomson et al., 2004b).

The commodity-based trade approach has two important potential effects; increasing access to regulated markets for products derived from livestock and wildlife and rendering livestock production and bio-diversity conservation more compatible.