CAIRO - The spread of a new strain of foot-and-mouth disease has so far affected about 5,000 animals and caused the death of 255. Not only the prices of meat will be affected, but also those of poultry and fish
Experts say consumers will have to put up with a 10 per cent rise or even more. The current rate is between LE60 and LE70 per kilo, depending on the social standard of the area and the meat quality.
The current drop in meat supplies in most governorates will result in price hikes in a matter of days, according to Haytham Mohamed, the deputy head of the butchers’ branch at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce.
He explained that slaughterhouses received less cattle from governorates surrounding the capital than usual.
In the wake of the epidemic of a virus strain known as Sat 2, the Agriculture Ministry banned inter-governorate transportation of cattle in a bid to curb the infection rate.
The Ministry has been consistent in this respect, particularly since the virus is airborne and spreads easily.
However, the butchers’ branch has been critical of the decision; it would lead to price hikes, particularly in Cairo, which relies heavily on live stock purchases from neighbouring governorates.
The branch is in favour of lifting the ban on healthy animals and limiting it to those suspected of infection. The Branch also draws the attention to the fact that all animals are subjected to thorough examination in the slaughterhouses.
On the other hand, panicked consumers are apparently resorting to the purchase of fowl and fish until the virus is under control. Market experts say that fish prices have already risen by as much as 60 per cent.
Yet there are fears that poultry supplies will not meet the rising demand, considering that production is already quite low, thanks to a state of stagnation.
In a country where almost 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, high meat prices are not likely to affect a big sector of the public. Many people cannot afford the current rates of locally produced meat; imported brands are much cheaper.
Nevertheless people are worried about the potential contamination of meat and milk, particularly when purchased directly from the farms.
According to professor Hamed Osman of the Cairo University College of Veterinary Medicine, unpasteurised milk should be thoroughly boiled for at least five minutes, since the virus is present in the milk and can be traced there, before the symptoms of the disease show in the infected animal. But he reassured consumers that sterilised milk was completely safe.
Nahed Ghoniem, a professor at the same college, told Al-Ahram Arabic newspaper that well-cooked meat would be completely safe, as microbes and viruses got killed during cooking.
Yet people, who come in direct contact with living animals, for example in milking and slaughtering, have to be cautious in order not to get infected.
Specialists confirm that the virus is weak when humans are infected. There is no danger if people follow the most simple and preventive rules of hygiene, like washing the hands frequently; therefore infection can easily be avoided.