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Swine fever: the fear of a global epidemic


A few days before the celebration of the Communist regime's 70th anniversary, the Chinese pigs are worried about the lack of pigs. Hard hit by African swine fever, China must tap into its stocks of frozen pork.

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A pig farm in Liaoning Province, China (image for illustration). REUTERS / Ryan Woo / Photo File

A few days before the celebration of the Communist regime's 70th anniversary, the Chinese pigs are worried about the lack of pigs. Hard hit by African swine fever, China must tap into its stocks of frozen pork.

Contagious to the animal, but not to humans, swine fever, or African swine fever by its full name, has been identified for the first time in Africa. This very resistant virus whose very rapid contamination is from animal to animal but also by ticks or agricultural equipment affects pigs and wild boars. Fatal for the beast, swine fever, which is manifested by fever, loss of appetite and haemorrhage, can carry the pig in a week. To stop its spread, there is no alternative but to slaughter the herd, because no vaccine exists.

The severe crisis in Asia began in 2018 in China, the world's largest producer and consumer of pork. First spotted last summer in the north-east of the country, it spread to other regions of China. Today, it is present in eight Asian countries: Cambodia, China, North Korea, Laos, Mongolia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and South Korea, the last contaminated country.

The global market disoriented

On Tuesday, September 17, South Korean authorities announced that they had found five dead pigs infested with the virus at a farm in Paju, a town near the inter-Korean border. They had to slaughter 3,950 pigs from several surrounding farms.

South Korea has 6,700 hog farms , or 40% of the livestock sector. This contamination comes three months after its neighbor North Korea said that dozens of pigs died of the disease on a farm near the Chinese border. In total, since the beginning of the pandemic, five million pigs have been slaughtered in Asia.

Swine fever is gaining ground. It is thus found in Europe. Nine EU Member States have already been in contact with the virus: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Belgium, a border country with inter alia France. On the morning of Wednesday, 18 September, Belgian customs officers intercepted in the luggage of a passenger at the national bushmeat airport infected with swine fever. In one year, more than 800 wild boars died of the virus in Belgium, hence the concern of French pig producers who fear the arrival of the disease on the territory, especially in Brittany where 60% of the farms are located. The French pig industry generates 130,000 jobs.

The crisis benefits European pork

The consequences are heavy for the world pork market which is destabilized. The prospect of a global epidemic and the slaughter of thousands of animals are driving prices soaring. According to figures from FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the epidemic has resulted in a 50% hog price hike, to the point that China has had to tap into its reserves frozen meat to avoid a shortage and get around the price surge. Economic losses are significant for the Chinese hog sector. In the first half of the year, her livestock declined by 15% year-on-year.

► See also: After Belgium, swine fever at the gates of France

For the moment, the spared countries are taking full advantage of the crisis to export their pork to China. This is the case of the United States or Brazil, which has increased its exports by about 30% in one year, Spain, which has more pigs than inhabitants, and France. French pig farmers have seen pork prices soar by more than 40% since the beginning of the year.

Industry professionals expect European pork exports to China to increase from 1.8 to 2.6 million tonnes between 2018 and 2019. The European Union has thus consolidated its position as the world's leading exporter. But beware, because Europe could experience tomorrow the same health crisis as Asia.

Source: rfi

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