The World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, has declared northern Argentina to be free of foot-and-mouth disease via vaccination, said Armando Torres, a spokesman at Argentina's Economy Ministry, according to a Dow Jones report.

The new status, effective immediately, pertains to all parts of Argentina north of the 42nd parallel, Torres said. Argentina is already recognized as being free from foot-and-mouth below this point.

The OIE decision comes about 16 months after Argentine officials acknowledged a small outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at a hog farm in the northern province of Salta.

Though Argentina has managed to sell its beef to 30 new markets since the Salta outbreak, negotiators are still working to get local beef into such lucrative markets as Canada, Mexico, Japan and the U.S.

"Obviously, this will improve producers' profitability," said Torres, referring to local cattle ranchers. "Trade prospects will improve for negotiations will the U.S., Japan and Mexico."

The new foot-and-mouth disease status was also a pre-condition for Argentina's entry into China's domestic beef market.