African swine fever: an issue that continues to concern the global pork industry

November 6, 2019

In China, the actual extent of ASF and the pig losses it has caused is unknown, but according to figures provided by the Chinese government, 39% of the pig population and 37% of sows have been lost so far. This figure suggests that over 163 million pigs and an additional 16 million sows have been […]

In China, the actual extent of ASF and the pig losses it has caused is unknown, but according to figures provided by the Chinese government, 39% of the pig population and 37% of sows have been lost so far. This figure suggests that over 163 million pigs and an additional 16 million sows have been culled.

By late 2019, 60% of the pig population is expected to have been lost, which would imply a 60% decrease in production in 2020. These estimates come close to a level that suggests that one third of the world’s pig population could be lost by mid-2020.

Recent measures

Over the last two weeks, the Chinese government has allowed new meat-packing plants in several countries to export to their market, in an attempt to meet local demand and control the price of pork, which is rising fast.

Both the importers and the Chinese government are confident that the 17 recently authorized plants in Brazil, plus new authorized plants in other exporting countries -including Argentina and Chile-, will help reduce the growing pressure on imported pig prices.

Latest outbreaks

ASF continues to spread throughout Asia. On September 17, 2019, the first ASF outbreak occurred in South Korea, threatening the pork supply. All movement of pigs was suspended for 48 hours. A second discovery was reported in the early hours of September 18 on a farm about 10 km away from the first outbreak.

To date, South Korean officials have reported 10 outbreaks as far as 50 km south of the initial cases in Paju. Almost 100,000 pigs have been culled, representing about 7% of average monthly slaughtering (1.44 million).

A recent report submitted to the South Korean Parliament suggested that ASF affected wild boars within South Korea’s DMZ, and that it was likely that wild boars crossing the border were the vector of the disease in the country.

ASF continues to spread throughout Asia, with discoveries in Timor, a country in Southeast Asia close to Australia, in the Lesser Sunda Islands east of the Indonesian archipelago. East Timor has a small pork industry (400,000 heads), but it reported around 100 outbreaks, some of which began on September 9.

Thailand on high alert

Thailand declared a state of high alert for African swine fever in 24 provinces, as well as a strict control on animals to prevent the entry of the disease, reported the National Livestock Department.

Earlier this month, the Thai government ordered the culling of 200 pigs as a preemptive measure after two animals died of unknown causes in the northern province of Chiang Rai. The government placed restrictions on pig grazing and movement of wild boars, as well as the transportation of dead hogs. Blood-test results of the culled animals showed they were not infected with the disease.

Countries with an ongoing disease status (OIE): Belgium, Bulgaria, China, North Korea, South Korea, Slovakia, The Philippines, Hungary, Laos, Latvia, Moldova, Myanmar, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, East Timor, the Ukraine, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

WHAT ARE WE DOING, BOTH SAG AND CHILECARNE?

Following the outbreaks of African swine fever, a panel was set up by the Chilean Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) and the pork industry to identify the main risk factors for the entry of ASF into the country.

Similarly, a public-private national expert committee was created under SAG’s coordination to provide a space for discussing and proposing measures and strategies to avoid the entry of the disease into Chile.

In turn, the OIE invited SAG to be part of the Expert Committee for the Americas.

In this regard, SAG and ChileCarne, the Chilean Meat Exporters’ Association, have been carrying out an outreach campaign at Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez airport during peak travel periods (holidays, national holidays, APEC, and COP25). It consists of ads shown on digital screens installed in strategic areas of the airport for passengers to become aware of the need to not enter animal products into the country. This measure is part of a strategic plan to mitigate any risk of the virus entering the country.

In the same vein, ChileCarne representatives accompanied an inspection of ships in the port of San Antonio last August to learn on-site about the controls conducted by SAG at border crossings and ports to prevent the entry of ASF and other diseases that may affect the country’s animal health asset. Potential improvements were analyzed that could be implemented with the support of the private sector to check and control cruise passengers, their crews, and cargo ships, and videos were made available to fortify these efforts and educate the general population on these relevant topics.

Health alert notifications have also been implemented: associates are informed weekly about countries with active outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF), Classical swine fever (CSF), foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), Avian Influenza (AI), and Newcastle disease (ND).

Additionally, it is worth mentioning the Biosecurity Program for Suppliers of Products Imported from China (BIO-REP), which aims to mitigate the risk of introducing ASF through supplies for pig feed. To date, the program is fully operational, with the participation of all importers, 257 products registered, and 474 certificates issued. In addition, the audit plan for registered suppliers is already in place (for more information, visit www.biorep.cl).

Finally, the “Ten Commandments” of biosecurity for pig farms were developed and implemented.

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