Swine fever found in Germany putting pork exports at risk

Country had been fencing off borders against wild boar

(Zevei-Wenhui/iStock/Getty Images)

Berlin/Hamburg | Reuters — Germany confirmed on Thursday that African swine fever (ASF) had been found in a dead wild boar near its border with Poland, threatening pork exports to China from Europe’s biggest pork producer, which were worth US$1.2 billion last year.

Authorities in the German state of Brandenburg quarantined a 15-km area around where the boar was found to search for any more dead animals and also restricted the movement of farm animals.

South Korea, Germany’s second largest pork customer outside the European Union, announced a ban on German pork imports.

ASF is not dangerous to humans but is fatal to pigs and a massive outbreak in China, the world’s biggest pork producer, has led to hundreds of millions of pigs being culled.

Major pork importers such as China often impose bans on imports from countries where ASF has been found, even if only in wild animals.

“The attention is now on whether importing countries, especially China, impose import restrictions on German pigmeat,” said Andre Schaefer at commodity brokerage Kaackterminhandel GmbH.

“China especially is a vital customer for Germany. If import bans are imposed we could see pork prices under pressure in Germany,” he said.

German pork exports to markets including China and Japan are likely to come to a stop along with South Korea, German meat industry association VDF said.

The association said Asian importers are especially important buyers of pork products which are not popular in Europe such as feet, ears, tails and bones.

Export curbs would prevent these products being sold as food and “would have a strong influence on product flows in the pork market.”

In the first four months of 2020, Germany exported 158,000 tonnes of pork worth 424 million euros (C$658 million) to China, double the amount in the same period last year, the country’s statistics office said.

‘No reason to panic’

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said Berlin had been in contact overnight with China, adding that Germany does not have a formal agreement with China about the disease, “so therefore we are in permanent dialogue.”

Germany is stressing “the principle of regionality” in the case, she said. Regionality means buyers impose import restrictions only on parts of a country affected by a serious animal disease, she said.

Germany has built hundreds of kilometres of fencing along the Polish border in an attempt to stop the disease being spread by wild boar.

Berlin has been concerned ASF could enter the country after a number of cases were confirmed in recent months in wild boars in western Poland, with one only about 10 km from the frontier.

Cases have also been confirmed recently in about 10 other European countries, where wild boars are suspected of spreading the disease.

Kloeckner said she expected German pork exports to other European countries to continue.

The case is “no reason to panic,” Kloeckner said, adding that authorities were intensively assessing what measures needed to be taken to combat the disease and prevent it spreading to commercial pig farms.

The German farmers’ association DBV on Thursday called for a corridor free of wild boar to be created along Germany’s border with Poland.

— Reporting for Reuters by Thomas Escritt and Michael Hogan.

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