New ASF outbreak in Poland puts Europe on alert
The ASF virus was confirmed in Wielkopolskie province, Poland, close to the German border. For now, the virus was discovered in the wild boar population in the area and not in the farms but it represents a real danger not only for the Polish industry but for all the swine sector in Europe.
Pig farms in Wielkopolskie account for 36% of the Polish pork production and the risks are increasing for the swine sector in the country, considering that Poland, despite the 5-years long history with ASF, still holds the right to export pork in several third markets, including the US.
Since the beginning of 2019, Poland has culled more than 200,000 wild boars in a desperate attempt to stop the disease from spreading from one province to another. However, while the government was optimistic at that time regarding the results of the large scale hunt, experts are contesting the measure. "Hunting the wild boars to stop the virus from spreading may not always be the best idea. Animals may run on long distances and keep spreading the disease”, explained Eran Raizman, a member of FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, in an interview for EuroMeat News.
On the other hand, a mix of factors such as wild animals and human negligence could become even more dangerous for the European swine sector. In the last couple of weeks, ASF was confirmed in the wild boar population from areas that are located 40 km away from the German border. At the same time, Germany keeps its market open for the pork coming from Poland as long as there are no farms affected by the disease in the area. Nevertheless, the trade between the two countries has already blocked the access of German pork in the Filipino market after a batch of pork exported by Germany was discovered to contain meat originated from Poland, a country banned for pork imports by the authorities in Manilla since the first ASF outbreak, in 2014.
The risk of the disease crossing the border in Germany is extremely high and, in the end, unavoidable, as one international expert believes. "We can not avoid that. The disease will reach Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain. It has become endemic. Right now, top management must step in in the front line to deal with this problem. This isn't a time when you sit at your desk," stated Emilio Becker, a Spanish economist and consultant for the food industry, during Carnexpo 2019 trade fair in Bucharest, Romania.
In Europe, ASF is present so far in Russia, Belarus, the Baltic states, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia and Belgium. The latest FAO warning refers to the risk of the disease spreading through Balkans. In Asia, the disease has impacted swine herds in more than 10 countries, with China and Vietnam reporting massive losses in their pig inventory. The EU is China's largest supplier of pork, with Spain, Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands increasing their market share in the region so any outbreaks in these countries will probably block the shipments of pork in the Chinese market and other parts of Asia.