ASF poses ‘very serious risk’ to Denmark

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Experts are concerned trucks transporting live pigs to Poland could carry ASF to Denmark
Experts are concerned trucks transporting live pigs to Poland could carry ASF to Denmark

Related tags Asf Pig Livestock Pork

African swine fever (ASF) is a pig farmer’s worst nightmare and as the virus rages in Poland, experts warn even a small outbreak could cost Denmark’s pork industry around €300m in losses.

The importance of Denmark’s pork industry to both the country’s national economy and the wider meat industry in Europe cannot be understated. Approximately 90% of pork produced in Denmark is exported. Pork accounts for half of all meat exports from the country and about 5% of all Danish exports. And while its live pig trade is expected to reach a record-breaking 13 million piglets​ this year, trade to Poland, although booming, is throwing up a huge issue – the fear of a highly contagious ASF outbreak.

Poland has been grappling with ASF​ this year with the virus still at large across swathes of its eastern territory. A report from the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) on 15 August said the country had eight new ASF outbreaks since its last report, dated 27 June.

During an annual conference of pig farmers and meat processors in Denmark last week, terms such as “risk​” and “threat​” were brought up in reference to Poland’s ASF problem.

Real threat

Karl Christian Møller, chief analyst at Danish Crown, told this site that Denmark’s largest pork exporter was worried about the “high risk of African swine fever​”. While Søren Søndergaard, vice-chairman of Seges Pig Research Centre, spoke of the very real “ASF threat​” facing Denmark at a congress of pig farmers on 25 October.

It’s easy to see why the sector is concerned. Møller said Denmark could face costs of up to DKK2.5 billion (€336m) if between three and eight farms became infected with ASF. Denmark has over 5,000 pork farms, so if eight farms were to be infected, this would represent just 0.16% of all Danish farms.

In other words, if less than 1% of Denmark’s pig farms become infected with African swine fever, it could cost the country roughly €336m. This would come from the loss of funds needed to fight the disease, as well as a considerable drop in export income, according to the Technical University of Denmark.

Poland’s ASF problem

Together with the authorities we have made a plan of how to deal with ASF,​” said Møller. “This includes the regionalisation of production, transport of pigs, slaughtering and sales of pig meat to prevent further spreading of ASF​”.

Each year around 25,000 trucks leave the country’s farms destined to carry pigs to markets across Europe, many of which go to Poland. Regions in Poland infected with ASF are divided into two zones: black zones across the east, red zones across the west. Black zone trucks have to be washed and disinfected and cannot enter a Danish farm for seven days after transporting pigs to Poland.

These measures have effectively controlled the virus from entering the country so far, but pork industry executives are still concerned about the ASF risk to Denmark.

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