Cambodia on Tuesday concluded regional talks aimed at establishing control measures for foot-and-mouth disease, one of the world’s most infectious livestock diseases and a barrier to international trade.
Plans to control animal movement and reduce dangerous smuggling throughout the lower Mekong region were concluded this week in Phnom Penh by animal health officials from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Cambodia.
“It’s a very important trade barrier disease for our livestock, which will impact small farmers’ ability to develop the market,” said Dr Sen Sovann, deputy director of the Agriculture Ministry’s Animal Health and Production Department.
The livestock trade makes up 14 percent of Cambodia’s agricultural commerce, which comprises 46 percent of the gross domestic product, Sen Sovann said.
Foot-and-mouth, a viral infection found in cloven-hoofed animals such as pigs and cows, is transmitted via contaminated vehicles, clothing and exposed animals. It does not seriously affect humans.
Foot-and-mouth is endemic throughout the region, according to Dr John Edwards, regional coordinator of the World Organization for Animal Health’s Southeast Asia Foot-and-Mouth Disease Campaign. More than 1,000 cows in Cambodia got sick in April 2000, when pigs imported from Vietnam infected cattle and buffalo across the country.
The group proposed establishing a control zone in the southern part of the country to monitor cattle and swine passing between Cambodia and Thailand or Vietnam. Awareness and incentive campaigns would reduce the virus’ spread to villages along covert trade routes.
Existing control measures—border checkpoints involving taxes and paperwork—only encourage smuggling and further spread the disease, Edwards said.
The Cambodian government’s commitment to control is limited. The government in 2001 removed veterinarians from border crossings to facilitate trade, and it does not enforce a 2002 subdecree re-establishing border checkpoints, Sen Sovann said.
The absence of control could lead to further outbreaks, damaging Cambodia’s trade potential and increasing livestock deaths from starvation and secondary infections, said Dr Kamarundin Md Isa of Malaysia’s Department of Veterinary Services.
To protect Cambodia’s only legal enterprise exporting cattle and buffalo to Malaysia—the Mong Reththy Group’s MRT-RML Livestock Corp—the government must make efforts to monitor animal health, he said.