Approximately one-third of global meat exports, or 6 million metric tonnes, are currently being affected by animal disease outbreaks, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

With the value of global meat and live animal trade estimated at US$33bn (excluding trading amongst EU member states), this could amount to world trade losses of up to $10bn if import bans extend throughout 2004. 

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% of its domestic flocks, will increase the vulnerability 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 US and Canada. The US and Canada account for more than one-quarter of global beef exports (around 1.6 million tonnes, valued at approximately $4bn). 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 US Department of Agriculture estimated. 

Both Canada and the US, in addition to 10 Asian countries, have reported outbreaks of bird flu. These countries account for 4 million tonnes or 50% of world exports of poultry meat (with the US accounting for nearly 35%), the FAO said.

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

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% in February following import bans on US beef and Asian poultry.