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S. Korea’s Yoo Offers to Resign Over Foot-and-Mouth

South Korea’s farm minister said that he’ll quit his post to take responsibility for the nation’s worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, offering to resign after the outbreak is brought under control.

“I apologize to the nation as well as livestock farmers for the damage caused by the foot-and-mouth disease,” Yoo Jeong Bok, minister for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said in an e-mailed statement today.

The outbreak, the fifth in South Korea since 2000, will lead to the slaughter of 2.9 million animals, mostly pigs and cattle. The magnitude of the problem is “unlike anything that we’ve seen for at least half a century” in Asia, the Food and Agricultural Organization said yesterday. U.S. pork prices have climbed on prospects for increased exports to the region.

“I will flatly leave after containing the spread of the disease and settling this situation as soon as possible,” Minister Yoo said in the statement. “I won’t cling to the minister’s post.” He was appointed to the role last year.

Hog futures touched 92.125 cents a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange yesterday, the highest level for a most-active contract since at least 1986. The price has risen about 30 percent over the past year to today.

‘Export Demand’

“Growing export demand is helping support the market, particularly with South Korea having liquidated about 25 percent of the breeding herd due to foot-and-mouth,” Don Roose, the president of U.S. Commodities Inc., said yesterday.

South Korea’s biggest cull may frustrate President Lee Myung Bak’s vow to limit inflation to less than 3 percent as meat shortages add to record global food costs. Consumer-price growth in the country accelerated to 3.5 percent in December from a year earlier, from 3.3 percent in November.

Foot-and-mouth may spread around the region as people travel for next week’s Lunar New Year holiday, Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer at the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, said in a statement. The culling operation has already cost about $1.6 billion, the FAO said.

Foot-and-mouth affects cattle, sheep, pigs and other cloven hoofed animals. While it isn’t dangerous to people, it can devastate farms.

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