Small-scale farms hit hardest by African swine fever, FAO reports, as nations ramp up prevention efforts


By Benjamin Ferrer, Food Ingredients 1st

12 Aug 2019


Almost five million pigs in Asia have now died or been culled because of the spread of African swine fever (ASF), according to reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The contagious viral disease that affects domestic and wild pigs was first detected in Asia a year ago. With FAO support, countries across the region are ramping up preparedness efforts to prevent further spread of the disease. In this global epidemic, small-scale farms that lack the capital and expertise to mitigate the crisis are hit the hardest, FAO emphasizes.


ASF is present in six Asian countries: Cambodia, China, North Korea, Laos, Mongolia and Vietnam. The latest data provided by FAO indicates that current losses represent more than 10 percent of the total pig population in each of China, Vietnam and Mongolia.


China has culled more than one million pigs since the disease broke out in the country.China has culled more than one million pigs since the disease broke out in the country and ravaged farmed swine populations. In April, live pig stocks were reported to have fallen by around 19 percent in March from a year ago, according to reports by China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).


While not dangerous to humans, the disease causes up to 100 percent fatality in pigs, leading to severe economic losses to the pig sector. Prices of pig meat, particularly in China, were reported to have spiked between February and May 2019 in FAO reports. The ASF outbreak notably presented new opportunities to Indian meat exporters who have geared up to plug the gaps in supply.


Since May, Chinese pork processors have been testing for the presence of the virus following a mandate from China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) which insists the country is capable of controlling ASF. However, the losses spreading through China’s pork industry have already begun to shift global pork prices.


“As there is no commercially available vaccine, we need to place greater emphasis on other disease counter efforts. Countries must be vigilant at borders – land, sea or air – in preventing the disease’s entrance and spread through the introduction of infected pigs or contaminated pork products. Outbreaks need to be reported immediately,” says FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Juan Lubroth.


“We are urging at-risk countries to implement effective biosecurity measures to prevent infected live pigs or contaminated pork products from crossing their borders,” he stresses.


African swine fever was first detected in Africa in the 1920s. On top of the Asian outbreak, Europe is currently experiencing a slowly-spreading epidemic among some of its wild pig population and some countries have introduced tight restrictions to limit the movement of wild pigs.


Nine EU member states have been affected by the disease, to varying extents: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania (wild boar and farmed pigs), Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Belgium (wild boar only) and Italy (Sardinia only). As such, the European Commission (EC) has underscored the crucial importance of multi-sectoral cooperation to control ASF to prevent further spread of the epidemic.


In the US, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has adopted a series of ASF-prevention measures which include ramped up coordination with customs and border patrols at key airports and seaports, as well as strengthening inspections. The measures to prevent the spread of ASF to the US are particularly poignant to the US pork industry in lieu of the ongoing trade dispute with China, which has been causing problems for many months now.


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