Agribusiness Freedom Foundation: Chore Ahead But Calamity Not Likely For Asian Trading PartnersFri, 28 Feb 2020 07:51:40 CST
The Agribusiness Freedom Foundation (AFF) Sentinel says it will be a chore ahead but calamity is not likely for our key Asian trading partners.
With only political enemies of the Administration predicting a corona virus crisis for the U.S., the beef industry is likely more interested in the situation in Japan and South Korea, our top two customer nations.
While both countries have their problems, the situation is not nearly as serious as China, even though they have the most number of cases outside of China. Most of Japan’s cases numbering over 800 were isolated on one giant cruise ship. Only a rough 150 cases are elsewhere in the country. We say rough, as numbers are very fluid with this disease.
Unfortunately, the ball was fumbled a bit on the cruise ship, as some medical personal and a few passengers were let off the ship in early stages without being tested and cleared. That has created some problems but they are tracking and tracing. There are also some scattered cases that have no identifiable source they are tracking down.
Japanese officials aren’t expecting to be able to shut the spread down but want to slow it enough to get a chance to bolster health care readiness.
South Korea had been doing quite well, with only about 51 cases until someone who had the virus attended services in a megachurch. Some 300 cases have been traced to a couple Sunday services in that church. Unfortunately for the spread of disease, this congregation often kneels crowded close together instead of in separate pews.
In a week, South Korea jumped from 51 cases to over 1,100. To get an idea of the country’s concern, the Prime Minister has been staying in Daegu itself for some days, directing the containment efforts. Daegu is the epicenter of the outbreak, the home of the main branch of the church involved. South Korea is reported to have run 35,000 diagnostic tests already, pledging to test all 200,000 members of the church. No country outside China has run close to that many tests.
The best news is that both countries are taking the situation very seriously and the spread of the virus is expected to be vastly more contained than in China. South Korea has declared a high emergency level, enabling the national government to cancel public events, close schools and restrict travel. Big companies like Samsung have some workers staying home but has restarted some factories after a few days of closures.
South Korea has had less than a dozen deaths, as has Japan. It seems the biggest factor has been how contagious this virus is, compared to the common influenza people are used to dealing with. But with more open governments, and quick reaction by those governments, the number of cases is expected to peak in a matter of one to three weeks, rather than the months it has stretched to in China.
There is some optimism that the number of new cases has peaked in China now. No one knows for sure, of course. President Xi Jinping is reported to have held a teleconference with party and military officials. Can you imagine the reaction on your IT person’s face if you asked him/her to contact the phone company and set up a teleconference for 170,000? Numbers are different in China.
There is no doubt that the virus will have some impact on both country’s economies. With factories temporarily shut down or partially staffed, travel and public events cancelled, less money will be earned and circulating. But at this point, it does not seem there will be anything but short-term effects on the economy, mostly in the first quarter of the year.
While the U.S. stock markets and the cattle markets have taken a hit in recent days, it still looks like overreaction and excuse taking. There is no reason to expect a major epidemic in this country. The President, the HHS secretary and the CDC Disease Control and Prevention all expressed confidence Wednesday that the country’s health care system, its border and customs systems and other systems were prepared, equipped and trained. The head of the NIH said a speeded up vaccine development process was in place but that would primarily be for the next round, if this virus acts like influenza, disappears with warmer weather and reappears next winter.
Politically speaking, only another official at the CDC in another capacity made the statement that it was not if but when the virus would start expanding in various communities. It just so happens that that official, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, is the sister of Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general who suggested he might secretly tape President Trump and recruit cabinet members to declare him unfit for office under the 25th amendment. It might be that along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who have disparaged the Administration’s efforts, Dr. Messnnier is one of those Washington bureaucrats not happy with Trump as president.
President Trump made a point that a report from John Hopkins University rated the U.S. as number one of countries “most prepared” to deal with the corona virus.
Trump put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the government’s efforts, citing Pence’s work in establishing a health system in Indiana that has served as a model for several states.
As Japan and South Korea have discovered, predicting this virus is not an easy task. It looks like their pain and economic impact will be short-term at this point. The U.S. has had plenty of warning, taken swift quarantine steps where necessary and should escape a major event.
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