African swine fever a worry for pork

The swine sector appears under the threat of what would be its version of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or at least have the same effect on markets.

African swine fever is a disease in hogs which currently has the world market for pigs and pork on edge.

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A recent story at noted the “disease is spreading across the gigantic Eurasian landmass, infecting pigs and wild boars from northeastern China to Belgium.

“Not only does it lead to mass-culling of animals in infected areas, but it can lead to export bans and exile from the world market.”

How serious is the threat? Well the same story noted “a major exporter that the Danes are building a border fence all the way along their border with Germany.”

The issue for Canada of course is the need to maintain market access to foreign countries.

Canada’s pork industry produces far more product than can be consumed domestically. Most of what is produced is sold to foreign markets.

In general terms, there is some definite optimism in the pork sector.

World market demand is strong and trending upward, whichthat should be good news for Canada.

But what would an outbreak of African swine fever in Canada do to the industry?

If we remember back to 1993 when the first case of BSE in recent time was discovered in Canada, the reaction of world markets was a swift closing of access. That left Canada with a glut of beef and a domestic market too small to effectively eat the problem away. The beef sector, starting with producers lost hundreds of millions.

The world market for pork does have one major difference. China has the largest herd of pigs of any country, but because it also consumes most of the production domestically, its exports are limited. Further, China has ASF.

According to a January story from Reuters, “China has culled 916,000 pigs after around 100 outbreaks of African swine fever in the country”, and “the disease continues to spread to new regions and larger farms.”

The likelihood China closes borders is less likely than was the case of almost every country when BSE hit.

Also, unlike BSE, there isn’t the fear of ASF passing to humansReactions, should an outbreak occur, will be related to protecting a country’s domestic pig herd as the disease is deadly, and without a vaccine.

That said, ASF could become a political pawn as well, used as a way to impact trade with certain countries for political rather than health motivations.

For the pork sector, the disease will certainly be a cloud on the horizon to keep a very close eye on.

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