The foot-and-mouth disease does not show any sign of subsiding. It has already spread to almost all regions in the nation. Shielded so far from the scourge of the animal disease are only two regions ― the two Jeolla provinces and Jeju Island.
More than 2.7 million head of cows and pigs have been culled since the first case of the disease was reported in North Gyeongsang Province in late November. They account for 20 percent of the cows and pigs being raised in the nation. Losses from the disease, including the cost of quarantine, are enormous. According to one estimate, they have surpassed the 3 trillion won mark. It is nothing short of a disaster.
As the livestock industry is crumbling, pork and beef prices are soaring. It is also pushing up the prices of poultry, eggs and other substitutes for meat. It is a setback for the government, which has already declared a war on inflation.
Still worse, all these products are in short supply at a time when their demand is highest ahead of the lunar New Year holiday next week. No wonder consumer discontent runs high.
Debate has started regarding who should be held accountable. Farmers are pointing their fingers at the government agencies, which they accuse of failing to take proper measures at the outset. But the government insists farmers will have to share the responsibility, adding that some of them failed to report that they had visited disease-infected countries and some others did not file proper reports on the outbreak of the disease.
But it is no time for recrimination. Debate on accountability can wait until after an end to infection is declared. What people need to do at this time of mass holiday migration is to help the government put the disease under control and heed its warning against visiting livestock farms.