Despite optimism that foot and mouth disease has been contained in Europe, several major feed and grain industry-related events were cancelled or postponed in recent weeks due to the outbreak of the devastating livestock disease.
The largest feed exhibition in Europe, Victam Europe 2001, was postponed only a few weeks before the event was to begin in late April in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Germany's Amandus Kahl company also cancelled its 5th International Kahl Symposium, which was to be held just before the Victam conference in Utrecht.
Cereals 2001, a conference for European grain growers, and the 2001 World Pork Expo in the U.S. also were cancelled because of FMD concerns.
The FMD epidemic has raged across the United Kingdom, where over 2 million animals have been destroyed. Cases of the disease also have been discovered in the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany and Ireland. The FMD outbreak could end up costing the European Community 250 million euros (U.S.$225 million), officials said.
While the disease does not affect humans, it can easily be spread by humans, carried on shoes or clothing.
Henk van de Bunt, general manager of Victam International, which organizes feed conferences around the world, said that because of FMD fears, less than half of the 8,000 people registered for Victam Europe were expected to actually attend. "We were told by businesses and other sources that people were a little bit scared to travel to Europe," he said. "The fear was that they would bring it (FMD) back to their own country. Some governments even imposed traveling restrictions. You don't have a show without visitors."
Victam initially planned to implement some precautions aimed at preventing the spread of FMD, such as installing disinfectant mats at the trade show and requesting that delegates not visit farms or feed mills before or after the event.
When FMD spread to the Netherlands, the Victam board said it had little choice but to postpone its 3-day exhibition on feed production, feed ingredients, aquaculture and grain processing. A new date for the event will be announced soon.
Postponing the exhibition "will cost a small fortune," van de Bunt said, suggesting that the loss in tourism alone to the Utrecht area could run into the millions of dollars.
The Amandus Kahl group said many of the 200 participants expected at its symposium on feed and grain processing also had cancelled their visit, or were uncertain whether they would attend. "These are very bad prerequisites for a symposium," said Fritz Pipa, division manager.
The Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) cancelled its Cereals 2001 show, set for June 13-14 in the U.K. "We feel that due to the current climate of events, it would be inappropriate for us to arrange such a large gathering of farmers," said David Storrar, RASE's director of exhibitions. "I have no doubt that there will still be an agricultural industry, and the inevitable changes will bring opportunities."
In an effort to protect the health status of the U.S. swine herd and to protect U.S. pork producers, the National Pork Producers Council cancelled the 2001 World Pork Expo, which was to have been held June 7-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.
"We have seen tremendous devastation in countries around the world from foot and mouth disease outbreaks," said Barb Determan, NPPC president. "The U.S. has been free of foot and mouth disease since 1929 and we don't want to take any risk of a possible outbreak potentially spread through the hosting of World Pork Expo, an event attended by pork producers and pork industry leaders from around the world."
Nearly 40,000 pork producers and consumers were expected, including about 2,000 international visitors.
One forum organizer, however, warned people not to overreact to FMD. The World Mycotoxin Forum, May 14-15, 2001, Noordwijk, the Netherlands, will go on as scheduled. "Our target audience — research and development and quality assurance managers from the food industry — is quite different from that of Victam or other feed-oriented events," said Dave Jaspers, forum secretariat. "The World Mycotoxin Forum will be held in a quite different area at the west coast where there's no problem with FMD at all because there's no agriculture and no livestock."