Biosecurity has never been more important on pig farms, warned Ciarán Carroll, Teagasc Pig Development Department chief, last week, following the first confirmed case of African swine fever on a commercial pig farm in Europe.
ASF has arrived in a farm in Rupinskai Village, Ignalina District, Lithuania, which has 19,411 pigs (including 1,396 sows). There is also a confirmed outbreak on a small five-pig farm in Poland, near the border with Belarus.
The disease was confirmed on July 24 in the huge, Danish-owned farm in Lithuania. All pigs on the farm have been killed, as a control measure, and feedstuffs and manure will be treated and destroyed.
The presence of the disease on a commercial pig farm has followed widespread findings of infected wild boar, and infected domestic pigs on several Latvian farms. At the beginning of this year, African swine fever was considered a distant threat, with little prospect of it entering the EU.
It has been a problem in Russia for several years, and Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine and Armenia have also reported outbreaks.
But its spread to the Belarus wild boar population posed a continuous, long-term threat to EU neighbours, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania.
Tight control of the wild boar population in Poland will now be needed to keep the disease away from Germany, which has a huge pig industry. The disease can also be carried by people and transport, and in meat. It is harmless to humans, but a grave threat to pigs and the pork industry.
Lithuania’s pig industry has been hit despite construction of a six-mile wire curtain through a vulnerable, forested area along the Belarus border. Lithuania also ordered a cull of wild boar earlier this year, targeting 90% of the estimated 60,000 on its territory.
ASF is also gaining momentum in north-west Russia, moving closer to the border with Finland. However, its main effect in the EU, so far, stems from Russia’s imposition in January of a pork embargo on the 28 nations of the EU, because the disease spread from Russia to the EU wild boar population. Russia normally buys a quarter of the EU’s pork exports, worth €1.4bn per year, and the ban has dragged down the EU pig price.
A dispute settlement panel has been set up by the World Trade Organisation to rule on the EU’s challenge to the ban. If WTO officials rule in its favour, the EU can impose retaliatory measures.
Brussels has argued that Russia applied double standards by continuing to accept pork from Belarus, which has a worse ASF problem than most of the EU.
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