Pig producers encouraged to remain vigilant over ASF

Friday, 28 June, 2019

Commodity watch by Policy Officer, Dr Geoff Thompson

In recent months, the scale of the ongoing African Swine Fever (ASF) crisis is having a significant impact on the global pork market. Since March, the European reference price has increased by over 40 p/kg and the UK and EU-spec SPP has now increased for the 10th week in a row to the highest price seen since August last year.

This week brought the news that Laos has now reported its first outbreak of ASF, with the country reporting seven outbreaks that have resulted in the direct deaths of 973 pigs and an additional 2,191 susceptible animals. Vietnam has reportedly culled more than 2.5 million pigs in attempts to contain the spread of the disease and in China, the numbers that have been emerging over the past few weeks are staggering, with figures suggesting that the national sow herd has reduced by 21% compared to a year earlier and pig slaughterings are down 5%. Estimates of the true impact on production vary significantly with the USDA forecasting a 10% drop in Chinese output. Whereas Rabobank is projecting an astonishing 20-35% decrease. As a result of this decrease in production, the USDA is predicting a 41% increase in Chinese pork imports with the EU expected to be a major beneficiary. Closer to home, ASF has been detected on a Polish pig farm with over 8,000 pigs earlier this month.

Given the current distribution of ASF in Belgium, Eastern Europe and Asia, the overall risk to the UK is currently set at ‘medium’. However, with regular flights from infected regions to the UK, there is a risk of the virus entering the UK within pork products in passengers’ luggage and being discarded in areas where pigs are present. In order to address this risk, there is currently several publicity campaigns in place to inform the public and discourage individuals from bringing pork products into the UK, with targeted messages to key people such as road hauliers, hunters, pig keepers and veterinarians. However, the single most important step that producers can take to protect their pigs is to ensure that strict biosecurity measures are in place on their own farm.

Simple things to consider include:

  • Only allowing essential visitors onto your farm and insisting that they wear clean or disposable clothing and footwear
  • Only allowing vehicles and equipment onto the farm if they have been cleaned and disinfected
  • Do not allow people who may have recently been in contact with other pigs onto your farm
  • Do not allow staff of visitors to bring pork products onto the farm
  • Do not allow catering waste or scraps to be fed to pigs
  • Only source pigs and semen of known health status

And always remember, if you keep pigs, you play an important role in preventing disease outbreaks and keeping your wider industry safe.