ASF update: Lockdown of northern China’s pig business

China has blocked transports of live pigs and pig products in a large part of the country since this week. This way, the country hopes to avoid African Swine Fever (ASF) to spread beyond the 6 provinces where the virus is currently confirmed.

At the moment the virus has been officially reported in the provinces Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang – appearing as the colour orange in the map below. The pig transport ban, however, concerns a much wider area, with all surrounding provinces also being included (all provinces in blue). This also includes the city of Shanghai. Effectively, the ban now covers about half of China.

News agency Reuters reports that the lockdown also includes live markets in the regions.

It is unclear for how long the lockdown will be in force and what the economic effects will be for swine producers in these provinces. According to Reuters, prices in the north go lower due to an accumulation of the hog supply whereas in the south prices soar.

A rare sight as from this week in northern China: pork sold on live markets. Photo: Vincent ter Beek
A rare sight as from this week in northern China: pork sold on live markets. Photo: Vincent ter Beek

ASF situation in China: Much is unclear

Much is unclear about the current African Swine Fever situation in China anyway. There are signals that the Chinese authorities have tightened their level of control over the communication around the virus updates.

Various sources from China have confirmed to Pig Progress that social media like e.g. WeChat have gone fairly quiet on African Swine Fever.

There also appears to be a silence with regards to outbreak reporting. Last week, virtually daily new outbreaks were confirmed to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), but this week it has remained quiet. The latest confirmed outbreak, from Tongling city, Anhui province, dates back to Friday, 7 September. The total count is now at 19 outbreaks.

ASF outbreaks likely to go on

It is likely, however, that behind the scenes outbreaks continue to occur. That is to be expected due to the rapid spread of ASF observed in recent weeks, in combination with the experience of how the virus has been behaving in Europe. On top of this, there is no efficacious vaccine.

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Further spread would seem in line with a recent forecast shared by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In a press release last week, after a meeting in Asia, the FAO stated that the ‘virus is here to stay’.

Movements of products containing infected pork

FAO’s chief veterinary officer Juan Rubroth said, “Unfortunately, what we’re seeing so far is just the tip of the iceberg. The geographical reach and how ASF has spread in such a short period of time, means that transboundary emergence of the virus, likely through movements of products containing infected pork, will almost certainly occur.”

He continued to say, “So it’s no longer ‘if’ that will happen but ‘when’, and what we can do collaboratively to prevent and minimise the damage.”

Praise for the Chinese authorities

In the same press release, there was praise for the role of the Chinese authorities by Wantanee Kalpravidh, FAO’s Asia regional manager of its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases.

Ms Wantanee said, “The Chinese authorities have taken this outbreak very seriously and have been very proactive in sharing information and their lessons learned with FAO and neighbouring countries about the spread of the virus and their actions so far.”

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