‘African Swine Fever may already be in North America’

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

‘African Swine Fever may already be in North America’

Related tags Us Uk China Pork African swine fever Livestock

A stark warning has been given to the global pork industry that African Swine Fever (ASF) may already have hit North America.

Speaking on the Global Meat News webinar on the epidemic, Dr Scott Dee of Pipestone Veterinary Services said he believes that ASF is already in North America despite the best efforts of the authorities to prevent it reaching the continent.

“The chances of keeping the virus out of North America are very slim. We import a lot of product from China that the virus can survive in. My guess is that the virus has already entered the country and enters it regularly at port level. What we have going for us is that it hasn’t jumped over to pigs so we haven’t seen it replicate. I think we’re getting bombarded with it at port level.”

Impact on the pork market

If it does hit North America, Dee said it would have a dramatic impact on the sector. “We’re [analysts] estimating a $16bn loss to the US agricultural industry in the very first year, we won’t be able to export pork and there will be an impact on other proteins.”

He advised producers to “ramp up biosecurity to the highest levels” ​in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

During the webinar, meat director at GIRA Rupert Claxton explained that there will be a decline of 18m tonnes in China this year with another 6m tonnes gone predicted for 2020. He warned that while this would provide an opportunity to sell pork into China over the next five years, it wouldn’t last forever. Claxton added that some producers are opting to neglect domestic markets in order to make more now but that this may require a rebalancing down the line.

Also speaking in the webinar was National Pig Association chief executive Zoe Davies who took us through what is being done in the UK to prevent the disease entering the country but said that current measures are not adequate and more needs to be done.

Chief executive officer of Global AgriTrends Brett Stuart rounded off the presentations and warned that China may never fully recover in terms of pork production and doubted if global producers would be able to make up the shortfall. He also said that some backyard producers in China are attempting to take advantage of soaring pork prices by restarting production without waiting for a vaccine to be developed in order to make money now.

“These farmers are desperate and taking risks. They assume they’re going get ASF again but they stand to make up to $400 per head so are taking that gamble. This desperation in the market is not good for Chinese efforts to contain ASF and is leading to irresponsible behaviour.”

For more on ASF, you can still listen to the webinar, African Swine Fever: A Global Epidemic, by registering here​. The webinar was kindly sponsored by Alltech Inc and Celitron Medical Technologies.

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