A highly contagious virus is spreading throughout Asia, infecting over one million hogs. The disease is impacting the global trade of pigs and pork products and is a .
The African Swine Fever (ASF) virus spreads between animals through direct contact or tick vectors, and it is “There is no vaccine yet and regular cleaning of people, products, and facilities don’t kill the virus, which can survive very low temperatures. The high resistance and the absence of a vaccine make control of ASF very difficult,” Perez told Food Tank.in meat products and the environment. This means that even after going through processing, packaging, and transportation, products contaminated at the source can still spread the disease further. Dr. , Professor at the University of Minnesota and Director at the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety explains why controlling ASF is a difficult task:
Containing the virus will likely require a comprehensive restructuring of the hog industry, including increasing surveillance of pigs and pork products movement,, regulating , and raising amongst farmers. The latter is a crucial step as farmers unaware of ASF may commercialize contaminated products—actions that jeopardize the accuracy of data about disease control.
ASF began infecting China’s hogs after the virus migrated from “There had been earlier epidemics affecting Western Europe, Cuba, and Brazil around 40 years ago. These epidemics were limited because countries established strict biosecurity measures which helped eliminate the cycle of the virus,” Perez told Food Tank.into Eastern Europe and eventually reached East Asia through trade. China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs confirmed the first ASF outbreak in Liaoning Province on August 2018.
The disease can have a lasting impact. According to The World Organization for Animal Health’s Deputy Director General , “China is going to deal with ASF for many years to come.” With more than 50 percent of the world’s pigs, the pork industry in China is worth . According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over . Food and agribusiness researchers at expect pork production in China to see a this year, corresponding to a 17-year low.
Perez explained to Food Tank that there is no risk for humans: “The virus is only a threat to pigs and wild boars, it is impossible for it to affect humans.” he said. Although the outbreak does not present a direct risk to human life, it can have significant and long-lasting effects on food security and food safety worldwide, according to the . In China, the “pork crisis” increased (a calculation of average price changes for commonly purchased goods) to a . As ASF impacts supplies, China will need to pork and other meats, potentially creating a ripple effect worldwide. This year, the United States witnessed the most expensive in four years. Spanish consumers saw the price of bacon increase by , and in Germany, pork shoulder prices increased by 17 percent. Further implications positively affected competitors in the international meat market. Brazilian pork exports are at an all-time high, and shares of major Brazilian meatpackers have been .
In their “It makes the foot and mouth disease and BSE [Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease] outbreaks pale in comparison to the damage that is being done.”, the FAO lists ASF as one of the most significant hurdles for food markets: “Food markets in 2019/20 are bracing for some additional uncertainties beyond their own fundamentals. A fast-changing trade environment and the rapid spread of ASF constitute important challenges to overcome.” To Dirk Pfeiffer, a veterinary epidemiologist at City University of Hong Kong and ASF expert, this is the on the planet. Pfeiffer says:
ASF may transform the industry. “There are big chances that ASF will cause a big transformation in the industry in affected countries. And because China is home to 50 percent of the world’s pigs, it is possible that this transformation will affect the industry worldwide,” says Perez. “The industry will probably be reshaped, there will be an opportunity for investment, hopefully higher standards, and there will be an opportunity to reformulate how production takes place worldwide. At the same time, the disease will be devastating for a number of producers in affected countries, particularly smallholders,” Perez explained to Food Tank.
In the political field, repercussions from the virus might affect the relationship between the U.S. and China. The trade war’s unfinalized negotiations impact pork and other meat product imports. In fact, China recently canceled of American pork, which can impact the entire farm sector in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has enhanced ASF , and in May, the Food and Drug Administration ordered from countries affected with ASF.
The swine virus impacts other countries in Asia. On June 12, North Korea confirmed an ,” said Anan Suwannarat, the permanent secretary in Thailand’s Agriculture Ministry. In China, the situation remains severe. With more than 120 outbreaks, and little success in preventing ASF, on July 3, the Chinese government announced that it will to large-scale farms in the country, aiming to reduce small pig farms and improve biosecurity.in the country, saying the government is making efforts to prevent disease spread. On June 13, the head of the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Health department told a local newspaper that given the worsening situation of ASF in the country, a must be declared. By June 18, an agriculture ministry official announced that more than to contain the virus. and have also reported infected animals in their territory. With no reported outbreak to date, Asia’s second-biggest pork producer, Thailand, is “
Dr. Perez tells Food Tank the necessary steps to help contain the spread of this disease. “We have regulations to avoid the spread of the virus. Then we need compliance. We need the public to be aware of regulations and the reasons behind it.” He advises people who travel from countries affected by ASF: “Comply. Do not bring any food, and if you do, please declare it. If by any reason, by mistake, you realize that you have a product that could be contaminated, and you forgot to declare, particularly pork, don’t dispose of it in regular trash. Report to the authorities, and if that’s not possible, because accessing the authorities in your country is not easy, at least destroy it, burn it to avoid contamination and spread of the virus.”