EU's antibiotic growth promoter ban only has short-term effect

EU - By this month-end, the EU will have placed a complete ban on antibiotic growth promoters; the last four antibiotics currently being used - flavophospholipol, monensin sodium, salinomycin sodium and avilamycin - will be completely phased out.
calendar icon 18 January 2006
clock icon 4 minute read
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As businesses across the supply chain are at various stages of preparation, US-based consulting company Frost & Sullivan predicts that the impact of the ban will only be felt more keenly in the short term.

Frost & Sullivan's industry manager Kathy Brownlie said, "In the medium and long term, impacts will be minimal."

The effects of the ban will vary between countries and regions as well as between livestock sectors. The impact will be more severe on livestock sectors such as the swine and the poultry industries than on others.

For example, southern Europe might feel the effects most strongly, perhaps because many farmers in this region are not really aware of the many alternative feed additives available and the benefits they offer. This makes them resistant to change and unwilling to consider new products.

Other factors such as the standards of hygiene management and animal husbandry also determine the extent of the ban's impact. Production units that have high standards will be less affected, since antibiotic growth promoters are usually less used in such an environment.

Overall, EU countries are expected to face challenges such as reduced animal growth rates and decreased feed conversion efficiency as a result of the ban. Due to falling feed conversion ratios, livestock and poultry producers may need more feed than usual to produce the same amount of meat.

This implies higher production costs, but on the other hand, it also implies increased revenues for the animal feed industry too, Frost & Sullivan added.

With increased production costs, the price of EU meat may increase. This will be a problem for livestock producers as they are unlikely to be able to pass on these costs to consumers.

Conversely, the ban on antibiotic growth promoters could lead to improved perceptions of EU meat in the global market, especially in light of the growing consumer demand for natural and organic food products.

EU countries face perhaps their strongest challenge in identifying alternative products that can successfully replace antibiotic growth promoters. Currently, some livestock producers are already using additives such as organic acids and enzymes as possible replacements, but proprietary blends and other kinds of additives are expected to emerge as substitutes as well.

However, the level of uptake of these alternatives remains to be seen. Traditionally, feed additives have been used for different purposes in the EU. In Southern Europe, for instance, the use of feed acids is aimed at feed preservation. There is little awareness about the performance-enhancing properties of these additives, which explains farmers' reluctance to use them in this capacity.

While using alternative feed additives can minimise the impacts of the antibiotic growth promoter ban, public opinion is that there is no one feed additive alternatives that can act as a direct replacement, Brownlie pointed out.

"It is believed that a high standard of animal husbandry and hygiene management is needed, and that when using feed additives to help promote growth, a combination of additives is required," she said.

Source: eFeedLink - 17th January 2006

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