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Challenges for the Brazilian animal health service

Over the last decades, Brazilian exports of meat and animal products have soared. Therefore, currently, Brazil is the biggest exporter of beef and poultry meat and the fourth greatest exporter of pork in the world.


Increases in the volume shipped are attributed, among other aspects, to productivity and competitiveness gains, and to improvements of the animal health system. The last aspect has been frequently discussed in several international forums and among authorities in trade negotiations between countries.


The importance of animal health has increased along with  consuming markets’ concerns related to food security, sustainability and animal welfare. As a result, animal health restrictions are in higher evidence in the international trade of animal products.


In this scenario, over the last years, Brazil has created policies and control and eradication programs for several animal diseases, aiming to guarantee quality of domestic products and the consequent positive image in the international market.


In May 2018, for instance, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recognized Brazil as a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) free country where vaccination is practiced. The exception is Santa Catarina, the only Brazilian state recognized as FMD free zone where vaccination is not practiced since 2007.


The last FMD outbreak in Brazil occurred in 2006 and the last occurrence of African Swine Fever (ASF), in 1984. Other diseases, such as avian influenza, newcastle and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) were never registered in Brazil. However, there are still outbreaks of brucellosis, tuberculosis and classical swine fever (CSF), indicating that Brazil still has a long way to go.


The upcoming years will be very challenging for the Official Animal Health Service. The need to invest in information technology, structure improvement and on the promotion of health education of producers and society in general is urgent.


The objective of suspending vaccination against FMD in 2019 (established by the 2017-2026 Strategic Plan of the National Plan for FMD Eradication and Prevention - Pnefa), was postponed to 2020. Paraná is the only state that remains with the goal to suspend vaccination this year.


In 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (Mapa) has launched the self-control program, which indicates that the agroindustry starts to guarantee health and quality of products traded in both domestic and international markets. This will require the private sector to improve its verification and monitoring procedures and Mapa to improve its inspection actions. This self-control program is aligned with the trend that many countries in the European Union already follow.


All these aspects reinforce the importance that the Official Service, along with the private sector, has to be ready to guarantee the level of health security by inspection and monitoring, in addition to having an efficient intelligence system that allows the quality of Brazilian products and operates rapidly in case of health crisis.


Improvements in control and monitoring systems and of the status related to different diseases need to be pursued, because this is a natural path that major exporters follow. However, necessary investments to promote changes may be estimated and all issues need to be discussed among players of all supply chains.


The final challenge is an evolution to a modern animal health system in a scenario of fiscal crisis. At first, the solution depends on the private sector participation in all the modernization process. This solution also involves overcoming the lack of regulatory impact assessment studies of policies implemented by the Official Animal Health Service and studies showing the potential economic impacts of animal diseases.


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