BEIJING (AP) — China has reported a new outbreak of African swine fever that is threating the country’s vital pork industry.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reported Friday the disease had been detected on a farm in Yongzhou in the central province of Hunan, where 4,600 pigs were being raised.
Although just 171 of the pigs had died and 270 were found sick, ministry regulations require all pigs on an affected farm must be culled and disposed of and the area quarantined and decontaminated.
First detected in August, the disease has killed more than 1 million pigs in China, prompting restrictions on shipments of most of China’s 700 million swine, even healthy ones.
That has disrupted supplies of pork, China’s staple meat, to big cities while prices collapsed in areas with an oversupply of pigs that farmers are barred from shipping to other provinces. It also resulted in additional stress on pig farmers already beset by rising feed costs from Beijing’s tariff fight with President Donald Trump.
African swine fever doesn’t affect humans but is highly contagious in pigs.
Dozens of cases have been detected over recent months in at least 20 provinces.
It wasn’t clear how the virus reached China, but it was found to be genetically similar to versions in Russia, Poland and Georgia.
The outbreak could cause longer-term disruption if farmers respond to lower prices and higher costs by raising fewer pigs, leading to shortages and higher prices.
The government maintains stocks of frozen pork in case of shortages but has yet to say whether any will be released this year.
Officials in Australia say six pork products brought to the nation’s airports have tested positive for African swine fever. The testing was done through routine border checks at Australian airports and mail processing centers as they were about to enter the country.
Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports that two weeks of testing by the Australian Animal Health Laboratory uncovered six pork products among 152 seized and tested that were contaminated with the ASF virus. The detection does not change Australia’s ASF-free status, but does serve as a warning that “the threat of ASF spreading to Australia remains serious.” Australia has an estimated 2,500 pig farmers and 36,000 pork supply chain workers.
African swine fever outbreaks in China, meanwhile, have reached 24 provinces and have resulted in the culling of more than 900,000 pigs since late last summer.
Another province in China is now infected with African Swine Fever. A Pork Checkoff report says there are now 24 distinct areas in China that have tested positive for the disease.
China is requiring their slaughterhouses to run testing for the virus on pig products before they’re allowed to sell them to market. Slaughterhouses must slaughter pigs from different areas separately. They can only sell products if the blood from the same batch of pigs’ test negative for the ASF virus. A new regulation will go into effect on February 1st requiring slaughterhouses to suspend operations and disinfect their facilities if they get a positive test.
Officials in Taiwan reported that one dead pig found on the shore of its Kinmen Island has tested positive for ASF. They believe the animal was dumped on the beach in mainland China and washed ashore in Taiwan. The island nation is taking precautions to protect itself from ASF, including tighter security on all incoming boats and planes from the Chinese mainland. In Europe, officials in France have begun to cull wild boar populations near the border with Belgium in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading out of wild hog populations within Belgium.
The Pork Checkoff’s Swine Health Committee met last week during the National Pork Board’s Unified Research Meeting to discuss the industry’s swine health concerns, to review research proposals and to develop a plan of action for activities in 2019. As expected, the committee spent the majority of its time on African swine fever (ASF) and discussed what it can do to aid in the prevention of the disease in the United States.
The Swine Health Committee’s plan of action for ASF includes:
- Development of a task force to specifically look at ASF risks and action items that will focus on:
- Prioritizing tactics, developing strategies and identifying resources to aid in the reduction of risk to ASF introduction
- Focusing communications, education and research activities across the pork chain to elevate the importance of keeping ASF and all foreign animal diseases out of the United States
- Monitoring progress and addressing new issues as they arise
- Continuation of aggressive support and promotion of the Secure Pork Supply plan and the accompanying data management platform, AgView.
- Ongoing work with allied associations to ensure collaboration and cooperation among all industry partners.
The European Union’s executive body is supporting Poland’s slaughter of wild boars as a way of protecting farm pigs and meat production from the deadly African swine fever.
The government’s decision to shoot some 200,000 wild boars this hunting season has drawn wide public protests but veterinary and Polish environment officials insist it’s an approved method.
Massive boar hunts are planned for remaining weekends this month.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission, Anna-Kaisa Itkonen said Friday in Brussels that properly done, the shooting of wild boars, which spread the virus, is one of the ways of stopping the disease.
The disease, which is spreading in eastern Poland, threatens Europe’s pork industry.
Poland Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski noted that Germany killed over 800,000 wild boars last year as a precaution.
Thousands of Poles are protesting a government plan to hold a massive slaughter of wild boars as a way to stop the spread of the deadly African swine fever among farm pigs.
Environmentalists say up to 200,000 wild boars, including pregnant females, could be killed across Poland by the end of January in the action approved by Poland’s veterinary and farming officials. They are petitioning officials to change the plan and scheduling street protests.
Officials say the mass hunt is a way of stopping African swine fever that has been spreading in farms in eastern Poland. Residents on city outskirts also often complain about wild boars roaming in search for food.
Environmentalists and some hunters say it’s a pointless slaughter that will only cause the animals to migrate elsewhere.