By Aya Takada, Bloomberg Businessweek
June 10, 2010
June 10 (Bloomberg) — Foot-and-mouth disease has spread to Miyakonojo city, Japan’s largest producer of pork and beef, in the southern prefecture of Miyazaki, threatening the nation’s livestock industry and feed grain demand.
The government confirmed the outbreak in a beef cattle farm in the city, about 50 kilometers from the eastern area of Miyazaki, where the most cases were discovered. All 208 animals in the farm were culled, raising the number to about 158,600, said Atsushi Tachi at the animal health division of the agriculture ministry.
“We are in a very serious, critical phase,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan was quoted by public broadcaster NHK as saying to government officials today. “It is important to act quickly to prevent the disease from spreading further.”
Foot-and-mouth is one of the most contagious livestock diseases and can have high mortality rates in young animals, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE. Miyazaki is Japan’s second-largest pig-farming region and third-largest producer of beef cattle.
Miyakonojo city produced pork worth 22.5 billion yen ($247 million) and beef cattle valued at 15.1 billion yen in 2006, according to the latest data from the agriculture ministry. The city had 376,100 pigs and 67,000 beef cattle in 2007, the latest ministry data show.
“It is regrettable that the disease has expanded from the eastern part of Miyazaki, regardless of our measures to contain it,” Tachi at the ministry said today by phone. “We are now checking how the disease was transmitted.”
The government plans to cull an additional 113,600 animals, including uninfected ones, to prevent the disease from expanding further, Tachi said.
Miyakonojo is also adjacent to Kagoshima prefecture, raising the risk the disease may spread to Japan’s largest farming region for pigs and the second-biggest for cattle.
Kagoshima had 1.34 million pigs and 376,200 beef cattle as of Feb. 1, 2009, representing 14 percent of Japan’s total swine herd and 13 percent of beef cattle.
The first case of the disease in Miyazaki was reported on April 20. It was also the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Japan since 2000.
Japan is in a situation where the disease may break out “anywhere, anytime,” Agriculture Minister Masahiko Yamada told reporters yesterday.
The country has so far discovered about 186,200 cases of the disease, of which 152,871 were in pigs and the rest were mostly in cattle and cows, according to the ministry.
–Editors: Jarrett Banks, Matthew Oakley