analysis

Global battle against ASF steps up a gear

By Aidan Fortune contact

- Last updated on GMT

Battle against ASF goes global
Epidemic may be too strong a word, but African Swine Fever (ASF) is spreading across the world and nobody’s quite sure how to stop it.

China, Romania and Moldova have all reported confirmed cases of ASF in recent weeks, leading to other major meat processing nations to take action.

Although harmless to humans, a confirmed case of ASF means the whole herd has to be destroyed, at significant cost to the producer, and at even more cost to the reputation of that nation’s domestic industry. Just last week, an incident in China meant that production at one plant had to be temporarily halted while the animals in question were disposed of.

In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is on the alert for any incidences of ASF, especially ones that are hitting mainland Europe. Proving that communication is key, it is keeping relevant parties up-to-date on any ASF-related happenings, as well as issuing best-practice advice. With good reason, the National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Zoe Davies explained what is at stake. “The health of our pigs is fundamentally important to our sector,” ​she said. "A notifiable disease outbreak would not only needlessly result in the loss of many pigs and annihilate our burgeoning export market, but would significantly impact on countless families, their staff, local businesses and tourism for months.”

The UK’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has focused its advice on the issue of feeding waste or meat products to pigs and how it can introduce and spread disease in animals.

Meanwhile, in the US, the major trade bodies in the pork industry have banded together​ to examine how ASF might be spreading. This action group has been looking further up the food chain to the feed and how ASF might be using it to travel from country to country. Although not every piece of feed can be examined for ASF, it has detailed out some sensible questions for pork farmers to ask their feed supplier if they are concerned. With one US analyst estimating that the sector could sustain losses of up to $8bn in the first year after a case of ASF is confirmed, these concerns are most certainly warranted.

Perhaps a taboo subject at the moment in the US, but one suggestion the pork industry action group hasn’t put forward, is the building of a wall. President Trump may have come up with the idea first, but Denmark and Poland are carrying out his vision, sort of.

Both countries are reliant on the pork industry and, for Denmark especially, it would be catastrophic if ASF hit. Poland has quietly been putting together a formidable meat industry and just as it’s coming into its own, a knockback like ASF would set it back years. Denmark is obviously more established as a pork producer, but ASF would be a massive hit to one of its primary industries, which is worth DKK11bn a year.

One of the ways suggested to protect this industry was to build a fence​ on the border to stop errant pigs wandering in from neighbouring countries, as well as increasing fines for violations that could lead to ASF entering Denmark. Poland had the same idea​ and is already putting plans in motion to erect a fence. However, some industry experts said it should have happened four years ago.

While there’s no talk in Denmark or Poland of making their neighbours pay for it, this investment is obviously worth it if it keeps ASF out of their countries.

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