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Turkey's meat crisis to hit peak with the FMD

ISTANBUL - Referans | 9/5/2010 12:00:00 AM | DİNÇER GÖKÇE

The Turkish livestock industry is facing difficulties in containing foot-and-mouth disease

The Turkish livestock industry, recently on the agenda because of price hikes in meat imports, is now facing further difficulties in containing foot-and-mouth disease, or FMD. 

FMD, a highly contagious disease, has been diagnosed in more than 700 areas all around Turkey since the beginning of the year. Due to this situation, livestock markets, where animals are bought and sold, are being closed one after another.

In the last three months, the livestock markets in nearly 40 areas have brought down their shutters because of FMD. The damage the disease is wreaking on the livestock sector can now be expressed in terms of millions of Turkish Liras.

According to data from Turkey’s Foot and Mouth Disease Institute, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, FMD has already caused a 15 percent to 20 percent loss of efficiency in the dairy industry and a 10 percent loss in the meat industry, in addition to the deaths of animals.

Breeders, already concerned over meat imports, said animal sales have halted since the spread of FMD and many markets have begun to close, adding that the problem is intensifying immediately before the Feast of the Sacrifice, or Kurban Bayramı as it is known in Turkey.

Mustafa Demir, head of the Turkey’s Red Meat Producers Union, said producers can not find livestock because of the disease, adding that he is visiting the plateaus of Ardahan, a northeastern city, to find animals. Current vaccinations against FMD have not solved the problem because the virus mutates, Demir said.

FMD has been seen in more than 700 areas in Turkey, representing an increase of 300 percent compared to the same time last year, said Şaban Aydemir, general coordinator of the Turkish Veterinary Medical Association, or TVHB.

Noting that FMD is also seen in large farms, as well as livestock markets and villages, Aydemir said, “Most large farms hide the existence of the disease as they are trying to protect their commercial standing. Provincial Agriculture Directorate teams are aware of the existence of the disease but they do not want to highlight the quarantine implementations.”

Livestock sales have come to a halt in a large part of the country, as a great number of livestock markets have been quarantined or closed, according to Emin Arslan, board chairman of Etçi Et.

Turkey has spent nearly 45 million euros in the struggle against FMD so far, said Tahsin Yeşildere, head of the Istanbul Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons, or IVHO. “But the disease could not be removed as we were not able to get to the root of the problem,” he said.

Even though the FMD has been seen in many parts of the country, the issue has returned to the agenda after Vural Görener, the founder of Banvit, a leading poultry company based in Bandırma in the northwestern province of Balıkesir, said, “There is not even one village from Edirne to Kars that does not have FMD.”

The disease was discovered in Turkey some 50 to 60 years ago and the number of animals that have died is nearly 11,000. In 2009, the disease was determined in 214 points, but this figure rose to 700 in the first eight months of this year. FMD is mostly seen in Central and Eastern Anatolia.

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