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Swine fever found in Germany putting pork exports at risk

Published 09/10/2020, 09:49 AM
Updated 09/10/2020, 10:11 AM
© Reuters. A case of African swine fever (ASF) in a wild boar was confirmed in Forst

By Thomas Escritt and Michael Hogan

BERLIN/HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany confirmed on Thursday that African swine fever (ASF) had been found in a dead wild boar near its Polish border, threatening pork exports to China from Europe's biggest pork producer worth $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 pigmeat customer outside the European Union, moved quickly to announce a ban on German pork imports.

While the disease is not dangerous to humans it 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 of pigmeat from countries where ASF has been found, even if only in wild animals.

"The attention is now on whether exporting 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.

In the first four months of 2020, Germany exported 158,000 tonnes of pork worth 424 million euros ($500 million) to China, double the amount in the same period last year, the country's statistics office said.

DON'T PANIC

Agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said Berlin had been in contact overnight with China. 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 that buyers only impose import restrictions on parts of a country which has been hit 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 pigmeat exports to other European countries to continue.

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

"It is a case in one wild boar in one area," she said.

© Reuters. A case of African swine fever (ASF) in a wild boar was confirmed in Forst

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

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