LONDON -- By January 2006, there will be complete implementation of the European Union's (EU) ban on antibiotic growth promoters. Stakeholders across the supply chain are at various stages of preparation.

The last four antibiotics currently being used as growth promoters -- flavophospholipol, monensin sodium, salinomycin sodium and avilamycin -- will be completely phased out.

"The impact of the ban will be greater in the short term, as livestock producers and the markets associated with them attempt to adjust to the change," remarks Frost & Sullivan industry manager Kathy Brownlie. "However, 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 various livestock sectors. The impact will be more severe on livestock sectors such as the swine and the poultry industries than on others.

Similarly, 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 product opportunities.

Scandinavia, on the other hand, is far better prepared.

Other factors, such as the standards of hygiene management and animal husbandry followed on livestock units, also play a part in determining the extent of the ban's impact. Production units that have high standards in this respect will be less affected, since antibiotic growth promoters are usually less effective in such an environment.

Overall, countries in the EU 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 one kilogram of meat. This implies higher production costs, but on the other hand it implies increased revenues for the animal feed industry.

With increased production costs, the price of EU meat may increase. This will be a problem for livestock producers, as it is unlikely that they will be able to pass on these costs to the consumer. 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 the use of alternative feed additives is one of the ways to minimize the impacts of the antibiotic growth promoter ban, it is generally considered that there are no 'cure-all' or feed additive alternatives currently available that can act as a direct replacement," said Brownlie.

"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."

Those interested in a virtual brochure, which provides manufacturers, end users, and other industry participants with an overview of the latest Strategic Review of the European Ban of Antibiotic Growth Promoters in Animal Feed, please send an e-mail to Janina Hillgrub, Corporate Communications, with the following information:

Full name, company name, title, telephone number, e-mail address, city, state and country. The information will be sent out via e-mail upon receipt of the above information.

Title: Strategic Review of the European Ban of Antibiotic Growth Promoters in Animal Feed. Code: B717-88.

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SOURCE: Frost & Sullivan via PR Newswire.