Press Releases

                                                                                                                                                                    3 March 2004

    Animal Disease Outbreaks Hit Global Meat Exports Says UN Food and Agriculture Organization

    ROME, 2 March (FAO) -- Approximately one-third of global meat exports, or  6 million tonnes, are presently being affected by animal disease outbreaks, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. With the value of global meat and live animal trade estimated at $33 billion (excluding European Union intra-trade), this could amount to world trade losses of up to $10 billion, if import bans extend throughout 2004.

    Trade losses will likely accrue to the 12 countries which are facing export bans or market constrains as a result of animal disease concerns related to avian influenza and BSE. This estimate does not include costs of public disease control measures, losses to producers and consumers through destabilized markets and fluctuating prices, and the general costs to the industry.

    The impact on small poultry producers in Asia may be considerable, with over 100 million birds estimated to have died or have been culled over the past two months. In particular, the impact of import bans on export-dependent countries, such as Thailand, which has culled around 36 million birds or 25 per cent of the domestic flocks, will increase the income vulnerablity of small producers as local prices drop sharply.

    BSE and Avian flu

    In the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), countries around the world have banned beef imports from the United States and Canada. The United States and Canada account for more than one quarter of global beef exports (around 1.6 million tonnes, valued at approximately $4 billion). US beef exports, after reaching 1.2 million tonnes in 2003, are expected to drop to 100,000 tonnes in 2004 if bans remain in place for the entire year, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated.

    Both Canada and the United States, in addition to nine Asian countries, have reported outbreaks of bird flu. These countries account for 4 million tonnes or 50 per cent of world exports of poultry meat (with the United States accounting for nearly 35 per cent).

    While avian flu outbreaks in North America are not reported in commercial flocks, any prolonged ban on US exports, which constitute 15 per cent of domestic production, will put downward pressure on all US meat prices.

    Pork instead of beef and poultry

    As a result of poultry and beef import bans, the FAO expects the demand for substitutes such as pork to increase significantly. This is already visible in Japan where shortages of beef and chicken have led to pigmeat prices surging 40 per cent in February following import bans on US beef and Asian poultry.

    Japan, heavily dependent on meat imports, is planning to resume imports of heat treated poultry from Thailand. Out of the $450 million of Thai poultry exported to Japan last year, approximately one quarter is reported to be in processed form. The European Union is already taking processed product from Thailand.

    Meanwhile, non-traditional exporters are moving to supply Japanese import poultry demand. Both Malaysia and the Philippines will export poultry to Japan. Malaysia will export 200 to 240 tonnes of boneless chicken while the Philippines are expecting to ship 30,000 tonnes.

    Brazilian exporters indicate that stronger demand for Brazilian poultry products in the wake of bird flu outbreaks would increase 2004 output by 5-6 per cent while pushing poultry exports up by 15 per cent.

    Chinese exports are forecast to decline by 20 per cent in 2004 in response to bird flu outbreaks; meanwhile imports are expected to decline even more, down 25 per cent due to a slowdown in consumption and poultry product import bans on bird flu affected suppliers, including the United States.

    Even consumption patterns in those countries not directly affected by the bird flu are shifting. For example, in India, chicken prices have dropped by one-third, fuelled by the Asia-wide concern over the disease. The poultry industry is reportedly losing more than $2.2 million daily due to a crash in demand for chicken and eggs.

    For more information, contact: Erwin Northoff, Information Officer, FAO,

    e-mail:, tel.: (+39) 06 570 53105;
    FAO Newsroom:

    * *** *