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S. Korea orders 1.3 mln livestock culled to combat FMD spread
SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has ordered the culling of 1.34 million livestock since late November to stem its severest foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in history, the government said Monday.

   The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said quarantine officials ordered the culling of 107,500 heads of cattle, just under 1.23 million pigs and over 3,700 goats and deer on 3,300 farms in the past 40 days.

   The exact cost of losses cannot be calculated properly, but compensation to farmers, the cost of vaccinations and other expenses may run past the 1.3 trillion won mark, although numbers can go up if the outbreaks do not come under control soon, the ministry said.

   Besides the culling and burial of animals, the government started vaccinating animals on Dec. 25, with 2.15 million livestock in six provinces and two major cities getting shots. All cattle and breeding sows in the central Gyeonggi, Chungcheong and Gangwon provinces as well as those in the city of Incheon, west of Seoul, are being vaccinated.

   Sources said losses will require the use of the government's emergency budget since existing reserves and farm-related public funds accumulated in the past are insufficient to deal with the extent of the damage.

   "Because farms that have been hit will have to re-stock on animals afterwards, the latest FMD outbreak may disrupt the local livestock sector for up to two years," an insider said.

   Before the first FMD case was confirmed on Nov. 29, the country had 3.4 million heads of cattle, 9.4 million pigs and a considerable number of other livestock.

   The farm ministry, meanwhile, said it found four more outbreaks earlier in the day, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 112, along with several other cases that are not officially tallied because the animals were culled as a precautionary measure before test results were checked.

   The latest cases involved two cattle ranches and a pig farm in North Gyeongsang Province in the country's southeastern region, along with a small cattle farm in Chuncheon, 85 kilometers east of Seoul. All 1,600 animals on the farms and those within a 500-meter radius have been ordered culled.

   FMD is highly contagious and affects all cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and buffalo. It is classified as a "List A" disease by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health although it is harmless to humans.

   The country was hit by the disease in 2000, 2002 and two more times early last year. Before the latest set of outbreaks, Seoul had used vaccines only once, in 2000.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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