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ASF China: Outbreaks in Hainan; on-farm monitoring

Whilst African Swine Fever (ASF) has now also been confirmed from the island Hainan, China has allowed farms to test for virus presence themselves.

Before and during the Easter weekend, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) reported outbreaks at in total 6 different locations at the island Hainan, 3 in the north of the island and 3 on the south. With that, all Chinese regions and provinces have now officially reported outbreaks of African Swine Fever.

To be complete, Taiwan has not officially reported outbreaks of ASF, but over the months 3 infected carcasses washed ashore at beaches of offshore islands belonging to Taiwan. Nevertheless, the fact that ASF managed to bridge the sea to also infect Hainan shows that even large areas of water are not necessarily a fail-safe barrier. Japan, understanding that threat for instance, has recently tightened its quarantine service inspections of hand luggage.

Japanese sniffer dogs active to find meat brought in at airports. Photo: PR Newswire
Japanese sniffer dogs active to find meat brought in at airports. Photo: PR Newswire

Official estimates are that still 1,010,000 pigs have been culled to halt further spread, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), but it is generally believed that real figures are much grave.

No restocking of swine farms

As a sign as to how much trouble the virus is causing in China’s pig industry, news agency Bloomberg reported that many farms are choosing not to restock farms as the virus continues to spread. Quoting MARA, the news agency aid that over 80% of the swine farms decided not to restock.

A reduced amount of pigs produced in China will have strong consequences in many directions. Pork prices might go up as much as 70% according to news agency Reuters; the consequences of the epidemic will be felt in trade all over the world as well. Massive export opportunities loom at the horizon, causing pig price rises everywhere, so will there be a reduction in demand to soybeans from China. For instance Brazilian agricultural minister Tereza Cristina Dias already touched on both developments by stating that pork exports could make up for the loss of soybean exports.

Read more about pig health in the Pig Progress Health Tool

Another – rather unforeseen – effect of the ASF epidemic in China could be that there may be an imminent risk of global shortage of heparin. This is an anti-coagulant for use in human medicine, and it is made of porcine mucosa. The ASF outbreaks, scientists feared in an article published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, already late 2018, may cause a shortage.

Commercial farms allowed to do own ASF testing

In the meantime, developments inside China with regard to the ASF outbreaks are going fast. News agency Reuters reported that China is now allowing large-scale pig farms as well as breeding farms to test for the virus to help an early detection of the virus. The authorities are encouraging farms to acquire testing kits.

In doing so, an earlier decision to prohibit commercial farms to test, has been withdrawn. Earlier, the government wanted to allow the testing to be done only by government officials.

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