The livestock supply-chain is one of the three major concerns and areas of activity of the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), aimed at increasing resilience in respect of threats and crises that affect agriculture, food and nutrition.
Epizootics are the global concern
So called epizootics – animal diseases – are of more and more concern not only for the farming society, but also for whole countries and regions, as they even can cause problems to human health. Therefore, this topic has become part of the general food protection policy.
The need to fight against animal diseases at global level led to the creation of the Office International des Epizooties through the international Agreement signed on January 25th, 1924. In May 2003, the Office became the World Organization for Animal Health, but kept its historical acronym OIE.
One of the main missions of the OIE is to collect information from its member countries on the presence and distribution of animal diseases and the methods used to control them, the purpose being to avoid the spread of epizootic diseases at international level.
At the moment 16 diseases are monitored monthly and contained in the o called OIE List A, namely:
These are classified as “Transmissible diseases that have the potential for very serious and rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, that are of serious socio-economic or public health consequence and that are of major importance in the international trade of animals and animal products.”
Development of African Swine Fever and avian influenza during last decade
The best-known epidemics, that are treated in plenty of mass media, are African Swine Fever and Avian Influenza (“Bird Flue”). For example, a massive outbreak in China wiped out at least 40% of China’s pigs in 2019. In some countries of Central and Eastern Europe ASF has been present since 2014 and is not over yet, as the human factor and the presence of infected wild boars spread this disease significantly.
African swine fever (ASF) is a devastating infectious disease of pigs, usually deadly. No vaccine exists to combat this virus. It does not affect humans nor does it affect other animal species other than pigs and wild boars. It can be transmitted either via direct animal contact or via dissemination of contaminated food (e.g. sausages or uncooked meat).
The ASF virus spread to Europe for the first time in 2007 through the Trans Caucasus Countries and the Russian Federation. The next massive outbreak occurred in 2014 affecting Russia, Ukraine and Baltic countries and is lasting until now and moving to the West of Europe.
Dynamics of number of ASF on farms in some countries of Europe (data from the EU Animal Disease Notification System).
In addition to the cases mentioned above, ASF was found in wild boars in Germany, Belgium, Hungary and Czechia.
Avian Influenza (AI) or “Bird Flu” is a highly contagious viral infection which can affect all species of birds and can manifest itself in different ways depending mainly on the ability of the virus to cause disease (pathogenicity) and on the species affected.
Influenza infections in birds are divided into two groups based on their pathogenicity:
While the risk from Asian H5N1 is low for most people, sporadic human infections with Asian H5N1 virus have occurred in some Asian countries. Most human infections with Asian H5N1 viruses in other countries have occurred after prolonged and close contact with infected sick or dead birds.
We can witness a new wave of Avian Influenza in Europe, which started at the end of December 2019 in the Netherlands and Poland and spread for the next 12-15 months over whole Europe.
Dynamics of spread can be seen on the pictures below (data from EU Animal Disease Notification System):
Risks in supply-chain and how they are managed
Usually, if an epizootic disease occurs in a part of the farm’s premises, all animals of the farm will die or will be slaughtered upon order by the state authorities. It leads to the total loss of animals on a farm. Moreover, besides material damage related to animals, the farm suffers losses caused by the interruption of activities, as it takes time to slaughter, transport and utilize animals, disinfect premises and keep them closed for enforced quarantine time (3-12 months), then implement an additional 1-3 month testing period and fill in the full production cycle. Therefore, business interruption loss of gross profit can be a much more substantial loss than just the loss of culled livestock.
Besides the risk of having the virus inside the farm, there is also the risk of government restrictions for animal transportation, if the farm is trapped into a risk control or surveillance zone, which can reach a radius of up to 20 km from the epicenter of the outbreak.
In addition, according to EU legislation, there is special zoning of infected areas, where additional limitations are imposed and its derogation requires some compliance with veterinary rules, if the farm wants to proceed transporting live pigs to non-affected areas of the same country or of another EU member state. Such necessary measures can lead to additional increased cost of working for a long period of time.
It can be said that in respect of epizootic scenarios slaughterhouses and meat processors are not the less vulnerable. On the one hand they are dependent on stable supply of live pigs or fresh meat, and on the other hand export markets can be unexpectedly closed as long as epizootics occur in the country where they are located. The latest story of this sort happened in Germany, when the Chinese government immediately closed the border for producers of German pork after the first infected wild boar was found on German territory. In terms of disruption of the supply-chain, the main sources of risk of a slaughterhouse and a meat processor are as follows:
Moreover, events associated with epizootic outbreaks can make farmers or slaughterhouses liable to compensate claims, brought against them as consequence of the 3rd party’s product recall and product contamination costs and direct damage to the contingents.
In order to prevent the spread of epizootic diseases and to compensate for the financial consequences of events occurred, governments deploy legislation in relation to:
On a microlevel, the farmers and meat processors implement special bio-security audits, put additional investments into the improvement of bio-protection and prevention measures against the occurrence of diseases on farm premises, develop business continuity plans in order to be ready to react and modify their business model in the event of a disease. Based on the GrECo Food&Agri practice, our cooperation with farmers and breeders’ associations in several countries, we count about 100 factors of bio-security that can be analyzed and afterwards implemented in order to reduce this risk.
Insurance solutions to mitigate financial losses
The ultimate parachute each livestock breeder and meat processor should definitely possess is a livestock insurance policy. We can witness that even the modern farms, that invested a lot in biosecurity, have suffered the emergence of African swine fever or bird flu on their grounds.
When designing a livestock insurance program, one should take into account the following:
GrECo works with up to 20 international markets who can offer standard or bespoke livestock insurance solutions. Unfortunately, livestock material damage coverage is getting harder and harder to be placed, as insurers’ appetites in respect of CEE/SEE regions are quite low. Insurance and reinsurance companies are aware of the ongoing epizootic situation in this area, especially regarding ASF and HPAI. However, some innovative solutions and schemes have been developed by our Food&Agri practice to partially overcome such challenges. One should also not forget that any insurance of exposed risks should go alongside with risk management services consisting of bio-security audits and business continuity plans, that can be provided by our special GrECo Risk engineering department.
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