New BSE case could hurt US beef market

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beef, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Cattle

The confirmation of a second case of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE) in the US has set of a chain reaction as
farmers, meat packers and governments respond to the announcement
by the US Department of Agriculture.

The discovery could extend the damage already done to the US industry after the first case was discovered in December 2003 and has exposed flaws in the country's system for testing suspected cases of BSE. In quick succession a number of reactions were set off by the USDA's confirmation of the second BSE case late Friday, including Taiwan'sreimposition of a ban on US beef imports. The discovery also comes as the US industry is struggling to persuade Japan and South Korea to re-open their markets to US beef exports. Japan, along with South Korea and other major foreign beef markets, banned US beef in December 2003 after the USDA announced finding its first case of BSE in Washington state. In recent monthsJapan was leaning to toward lifting its ban on US beef this summer. Now officials say they are re-considering the USDA evidence. Beef and beef exports to Japan, the US's largest market before the ban, were valued at $1.2 billion in 2003. After the first case of BSE was discovered in Washingtion US beef exports fell by 64 percent, with Japan representing half that market. About 41 per cent of the traditional export markets, or $3bn remain closed to US beef. In a bid to dampen the damage the USDA said it is working to locate herdmates and offspring of the affected cow, because they may also have eaten contaminated feed, and could possibly have mad cowdisease. Agriculture secretary Mike Johanns also directed USDA scientists to work with international experts to develop a new testing system. The new system would include performing dual confirmatory testsin the event of an inconclusive BSE screening test using a rapid method. The USDA is examining is looking into how the current system allowed the BSE-infected cow to first be classified as negativefor the brain-wasting syndrome last November. The discovery comes just at a time when US beef consumption rises for the summer barbeque season. Ranchers and meat processors fear that a new BSE scare will lead to a drop in demand and prices.Already cattle prices have fallen by about 2.7 per cent in futures trading since the USDA said on 10 June that it was re-testing the beef cow, which had been declared free of the disease in November.Prices were expected to continue falling when trading resumes today, said analysts. The new BSE case, described only as a beef cow more than eight years old that was labelled as a "downer" one too ill to walk. It could be the first US-born case. The first case was anolder dairy cow in Washington state that had been born in Canada. Top markets for US beef (accounting for over 90 per cent of total beef exports) Vol: millions of lbs. carcass weight. Val: $m 2002 2003 2004 Volume Value Volume Value Volume Value Japan 771 843 920 1,167 12 0.6 Mexico 629 596 589 604 334 372 South Korea 597 610 588 749 1 0.4 Canada 241 286 226 321 56 94

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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