Hog producers facing uncertain future

It was in February I wrote about the swine sector appearing to be under the threat of what would be its version of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), at least in terms of it having the same effect on markets.

African swine fever (ASF) is a disease in hogs which currently has the world market for pigs and pork on edge. It spreads through close contact with infected animals or their excretions, or through feeding uncooked contaminated meat to susceptible pigs. ASF affects only pigs and presents no human health or food safety risks.

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The disease is definitely sending a shudder through the swine sector on a world-wide basis.

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.”

Not surprisingly efforts are under way to strengthen biosecurity to prevent the disease getting a foothold on this continent.

Protection from ASF received some additional “support from Canada’s Federal government when Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and Agri-Food, announced new funding of up to $31 million to increase the number of detector dogs at Canadian airports to help prevent illegally imported meat products from entering into Canada. This funding will allow for the addition of 24 detector dog teams over five years, bringing the total number to 39 food, plant, and animal Detector Dog Service (DDS) teams,” wrote Harry Siemens in Prairie Hog Country magazine.

“Importing illegal meat and meat products from countries affected by ASF present one of the most significant risks for introducing this animal disease to Canada. Detector dogs are the best available method to intercept meat products, making them the most effective tool in protecting Canada's swine population from ASF as well as other animal diseases.”

Stateside, The National Pork Producers Council’s board of directors have announced their decision to cancel World Pork Expo 2019 “out of an abundance of caution as African swine fever continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia,” detailed a recent release. “World Pork Expo, held each June at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, hosts approximately 20,000 visitors over three days, including individuals and exhibitors from ASF-positive regions.

“While an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded negligible risk associated with holding the event, we have decided to exercise extreme caution,” said David Herring, NPPC president and a producer from Lillington, North Carolina in the release. “The health of the U.S. swine herd is paramount; the livelihoods of our producers depend on it. Prevention is our only defense against ASF and NPPC will continue to do all it can to prevent its spread to the United States.”

Here in Canada plans are in place to host the first international ASF forum in Ottawa from April 30 to May 1. “This forum will provide an opportunity to strengthen international co-operation further to stop the spread of ASF. Although Canada has never had a case of ASF, the disease continues to spread in parts of Asia and Europe. ASF poses no risk to human health, but it could disrupt Canada's pork industry, which includes over 100,000 direct and indirect Canadian jobs,” wrote Siemens.

Certainly protecting the export-oriented sector in Canada is paramount and it is to be hoped the caution being exhibited bears out for the future on the swine business.