Baltics and Poland unite to battle African swine fever

By Gerard O’Dwyer, in Helsinki and Monika Hanley in Riga

- Last updated on GMT

The taskforce is looking to develop a 'solid common plan' to help eradicate ASF
The taskforce is looking to develop a 'solid common plan' to help eradicate ASF
Four Baltic rim states have reached an agreement on a programme of joint measures to combat the outbreak of the fatal African swine fever virus (ASF) in the region.

Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia established a Baltic-Polish taskforce on 30 July, to eliminate the spread of the disease, which was detected at a piggery in Eastern Lithuania on 22 July.

"We need to move quickly and develop a solid common plan to eradicate this problem. The taskforce is led by officials from all four agriculture ministries. It will include food and veterinary service specialists from the four countries. This challenge needed a strong common response,"​ Latvia’s agriculture minister Janis Duklavs told a news conference in Vilnius on 30 July.

According to Duklavs, Baltic and Polish governments intended to petition the European Commission for special funding to assist the taskforce’s work in combating the spread of the virus, and to provide compensation to any affected pig farms. "We must first contain and then eliminate the problem. We do not want ASF spreading to other European states,"​ he added.

Sporadic outbreaks of the virus were detected at piggeries in Lithuania and Poland during the second quarter of 2014. The virus was detected in a pig herd in Latvia on 26 June, leading the Latvian government to introduce a three-month state of emergency, set to end on 1 October, at more than 100 pig farms across the country.

The virus in Lithuania was detected at the Rupinskai pig farm, operated by the Danish Jutland-based Idavang Group’s Lithuanian subsidiary, Idavang, which operates 11 pig farms in the country.

Lithuania’s State Food and Veterinary Service (SFVS, or ‘Valstybinė Maisto Ir Veterinarijos Tarnyba’) immediately imposed a 10-kilometre infection control and monitoring zone around the farm. This was the first outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in a commercial holding in the European Union, with a state of emergency the declared in the Ignalina district of Lithuania on 28 July.

The farm’s entire stock of 19,411 pigs were subsequently destroyed, Idavang’s spokesperson Lina Mockute told GlobalMeatNews​. "We are cooperating fully with authorities to establish how the disease found its way on to the farm,"​ said Mockute.

The SFVS’ investigation includes the possibility that the virus is being transmitted by wild boar. The virus has been detected in the carcases of at least 20 wild boar since January, and resulted in Lithuania ordering a mass cull of wild boar that targeted 90% of the estimated 60,000 in its territory.

Forty samples were taken from the culled pigs and 36 tested positive for ASF. The Lithuanian Food and Veterinary Services said it is the same strain of ASF found among wild boar or farm/backyard holdings in Russia, Georgia, Belarus, Latvia, and Poland.

"Pigs from Rupinskai were transported to slaughterhouses in Poland and Lithuania. The meat is currently being checked. It was immediately withdrawn from trade,"​ Jonas Milius, director of SFVS, told GlobalMeatNews​.

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