Control of animal diseases in a global market is just one topic on a crowded agenda


The organisers of the forthcoming 2006 World Meat Congress in Brisbane - 2020: Meat the Road Ahead - have announced the main issues to be tackled by the world's biggest meat industry conference.

Consumers, communities and trade policies will all be at the top of the agenda, but it will be the subject of animal diseases that will be of particular interest to delegates during 26-28 April.

The recent outbreaks of FMD in Brazil and in Argentina, and the ongoing international bird flu crisis, mean that meat operators will be trying to establish what can be done to control and eliminate animal diseases - essential in order to restore consumer confidence.

The resumption of US beef exports to Japan - a result of "dramatic steps" taken by the US government to remove risk materials such as brain and spinal cord - is another topic likely to grab delegates' attention. Phil Seng, chief executive officer and president of the US Meat Export Federation, will throw light on how the dispute came to be solved, and the implications for future policies.

"Despite the discovery of only two cases of BSE in our herd, the US government and industry took dramatic steps to assure that risk materials were carefully removed from US cattle," said Seng. He added that every supplier had to agree to the conditions of the export verification program, developed by the Japanese government, before they could supply beef to Japan.

European delegates in particlar will have a keen interest in these talks, especially since the UK has just emerged from a ­ similarly long and arduous process to persuade its EU trading partners to lift a beef export ban imposed in 1999.

More insights from Japan will come from Yoshikiyo Fujii, president of Nippon Meat Packers, who will highight the commercial considerations that drive Japan's meat industry. Nippon Meat Packers is one of the country's biggest ham, sausage, processed food and meat suppliers and Australia's third largest beef and veal supplier. It employs 2,300 in Australia and 28,000 worldwide.

Another keynote speaker will be Dr Guanghong Zhou, Vice President of China's Nanjing Agricultural University (NAU) and chairman of the Chinese Association of Animal Products, Processing. Dr Zhou will present the medium-term potential of China's meat demand and what Chinese consumers will be looking for in their meat products. 

Dr Alex Thiermann, President of the Terrestial Animal Health Code Commission of World Organisations for Animal Health (OIE), will argue in favour of the importance of international animal standards in global trade. They will be vital, he will argue, to sustain the industry into 2020. "The importance of international standards in the trade of animals and animal products cannot be overstated," he said. "The emphasis in the Terrestial Animal Health Code has shifted from a strict focus on the safety of commodities traded to dependent, credible surveillance and monitoring systems - the keys to a safe and sustainable international meat industry."

Also talking on the subject of animal welare will be President of the OIE Animal Welfare Working Group, Dr David Bayyel. He will focus in particular on the key issues and trends within various communities.

For those interested in the World Trade Organisation DOHA round of negotiations and their subsequent implications for the meat industry, there will be sector committee meetings for the pork, beef and sheep markets.

The chairman of this year's World Meat Congress, Mark Spurr, said the event will also focus on global trends and innovations. "This is the biggest and most important meat industry event on the calendar. It is where the key decision-makers gather in one place at one time to discuss the current and future issues facing the world's meat industries."

For those producers who want to look at the methods of raising animals used in Australia, there will be industry tours before and after the Congress. "We have 25 representatives who will be hiring planes to visit ranches so that producers can see the different methods of raising animals used in Australia," said Laurence Wrixon, editor of the International Meat Secretariat newsletter.

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

The 2006 World Meat Congress, conducted by the International Meat Secretariat and hosted by Meat & Livestock Australia, the Australian Meat Industry Council and Australia Pork, is expected to attract over 500 of the world's most influential players in the global meat industry.

And registrations are still rolling in daily. Laurence Wrixon, editor of International Meat Secretariat, says: "We've had over 400 registrations to date and still have over three weeks to go. It is going to be the best attended conference ever, even though it is a bit far for Europeans. However, the event does give delegates an ideal opportunity to meet up with international traders - informally and at set sessions."

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