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March 29, 2013

Brazil Inching Closer to being Declared Free of Foot-And-Mouth

In addition to being a major producer of grains and other commodities, Brazil also has one of the largest cattle herds in the world and they have been working diligently to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease from the country's cattle herd since launching the National Program for the Eradiation and Prevention of Foot-And-Mouth Disease (PNEFA) in 1992. The goal then and now is to progressively enlarge the zones in Brazil that are free of the disease. The first disease free zone was accomplished in 1998.

Most of Brazil is already disease free and efforts are now being focused on the last remaining regions where the disease may still be present in northeastern Brazil and the Amazon Region and the Minister of Agriculture expects these regions to also be declared free of the disease by May of this year. If that does turn out to be the case, then the Brazilian government will petition the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) to declare Brazil free of the diseases as soon as in 2014. Brazil would then have the largest disease free cattle herd in the world.

Since 2008, the federal government has made a concerted effort to eradicate the disease from seven small northeastern states including: Alagoas, Ceara, Maranhao, Paraiba, Pemambuco, Piaui, and Rio Grande do Norte as well as the large amazon state of Para. They have invested R$ 34 million in these eight states over the last several years in an effort to eradicate the disease.

One way to get the all clear from OIE that foot-and-mouth has been eliminated is to adopt their sampling methodology including statistically testing animals in the region. In order to do that, random blood samples have been taken from 71,000 animals on 1,700 farms since the second half of 2012 and the entire sampling is expected to be completed in May.

In Brazil, 89% of the cattle and other susceptible livestock, or 185 million head, are in zones considered free of foot-and-mouth disease. These zones represent 60% of Brazil's land area. If the 22 million head in the eight states being sampled can be declared disease free, it would represent 99% of the susceptible animals in Brazil.

Their eradication efforts would then be focused on the states of Amapa, Roraima, and part of the state of Amazonas.

If Brazil could achieve the goal of being declared free from foot-and-mouth disease, it would help to open up international markets for Brazil's beef that are currently closed due to fear of disease transmission.