Foot and mouth disease: the effects on abattoirs and the meat-processing industry

The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the Netherlands has left its mark on various sectors of the economy. In recent months, abattoirs and the meat processing industry in particular have suffered because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Various problems

First of all fewer animals have been slaughtered since the beginning of March because of livestock transport restrictions. Immediately after the outbreak in the Netherlands, all the large abattoirs shut their doors for one to three weeks, some smaller ones even for as long as 11 weeks. Only at the end of the year will it become clear whether the sector will be able to make up for this.

Number of pigs slaughtered weekly (x1000)

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Source: Marketing board for livestock, meat and eggs (provisional figures)

In the second place, turnover from exports has dropped sharply since the crisis. Government export restrictions have clearly taken their toll, and this will remain so in the near future as the country needs to be declared free of foot-and-mouth disease for at least one year before it can resume exporting to outside Europe; this will be July 2002 at the earliest, as long as no new cases of foot-and-mouth occur in the meantime.

 Monthly export turnover, January 1999 to June 2001 (index 1995 = 100)

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Thirdly, in March and April this year activity in abattoirs and the meat processing industry was down on normal levels. This is not surprising as for part of this period there no livestock was delivered to be slaughtered and thus there was no meat to be processed.

Capacity utilisation

Capacity utilisation has also tumbled as a consequence of the foot-and mouth crisis. In March, the month that all abattoirs had ceased activity because of measures to contain the outbreak, it fell by nearly 20 percent points to 68.4%. Although capacity utilisation has recovered somewhat - it was 81.5% in June - it is still lower than the average for the last three years.

Finally, in March production processes in half of companies in the abattoir and meat-processing industry were hampered because of the foot-and-mouth crisis., the highest number of companies affected since January 1994. In June 20% of producers in this sector were still suffering from foot-and-mouth-related bottlenecks.

Margot de Steur