Venezuela criticizes Colombian ban on meat imports

Colombia's decision last week to ban imports of meat and other products from Venezuela over fears of foot-and-mouth disease was "untimely," Venezuela's agriculture minister said.

Colombia imposed the ban Wednesday after the highly contagious disease was found in February in cattle on the Venezuelan side of the border between the two South American nations.

Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua on Monday called it only a "small outbreak" of foot-and-mouth among 159 cows, and said it was controlled by March 17.

Colombia "should have taken into due consideration the fact that this outbreak had been controlled," Jaua said.

"It seems to us that the measure they took is untimely, and we have already sent a communication asking them to reconsider," Jaua said.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals like cattle, sheep and pigs. It causes sores, blisters and fever, and is deadly for livestock but harmless to people.

The ban affects imports of Venezuelan food products derived from those animals. Colombia also banned the same products from its southern neighbor Ecuador last week after the disease was found there.

After the United States, Venezuela is Colombia's second-largest trading partner, with commerce between the two nations topping US$3.2 billion ( Ђ 2.6 billion) last year, reports the AP.

I.L.