The desire for countries to access cheaper meat from FMD-based countries is a growing trend amongst meat-consuming nations. Indonesia has recently announced it’s considering changes in legislation to enable importers to source beef from FMD-free zones.

The driving force behind the move is the growing disparity in world beef prices between non-FMD countries and FMD countries, and the prices received for their meat exports. This price difference is most obvious in the high-priced U.S. market, which is buying non-FMD country meat like Australia at a 30 % premium over FMD country meat levels. This price premium is expected to be maintained or even widen due to the drought-stricken U.S. beef herd.

For all the same reasons, I believe it is that price disparity that is driving this week’s announcement by both Argentina and Brazil to challenge the U.S. government’s long-time policy on not accepting fresh beef from FMD countries. Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Mendes Ribeiro Filho says the Brazilian government is looking into the possibility of joining forces with Argentina on challenging the U.S. within the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Japan’s decision to import Brazilian pork highlights how close Japan is to accepting the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina’s other meat items like beef into the Japan retail sector. Santa Catarina has a cattle population at 3.5 million head.

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture's animal sanitation risk commission completed its assessment of Brazilian pork imports this week and held a public meeting discussing its findings. The discussions were reported as favorable to the interests of Brazil.

Pedro de Camargo Neto, executive president of the Brazilian Pork Exporters Association (Abipecs), said recently that exports to Japan would have begun in 2011, but the March 11 tsunami and an FMD outbreak in Japan delayed the start.

These world beef price differences have also forced Indonesia’s government to consider changing its regulations on importing frozen beef and live cattle from FMD countries. The legislation being drafted would allow Indonesia to source cattle from any zone free of FMD.

Local Indonesian consumers have been complaining about rising beef costs and the increasing circulation of illegal beef imports. The Indonesian government’s challenge is to control and legitimize this cheaper beef.

This would mean that Indonesia would move from a country-based classification system to a zone-based system enabling Indonesia importers to accept beef and cattle imports from FMD-free zones – states or regions – from nations like India, Brazil and Argentina.