ASF China: WH Group under scrutiny; 59 outbreaks

07-11-2018 | | |
Pork sausages as sold in Taiwan   not the ones found infected. Photo: 123RF
Pork sausages as sold in Taiwan not the ones found infected. Photo: 123RF

Of all major swine producers in China, the Chinese WH Group has recently received the most attention with regards to African Swine Fever.

The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture recently reported in early November that it found African Swine Fever (ASF) virus in a crispy sausage. It was found in a garbage container on a ship travelling between China’s Fujian province and the Kinmen islands, wrote the Taipei Times. The Kinmen islands are located just off the Chinese coast, but are under control of Taiwan. Interestingly, so far, from the Chinese Fujian province no official ASF outbreaks in live pigs have been reported.

According to Taiwanese agricultural deputy minister Huang Chin-cheng, the sausage was manufactured by the WH Group. This company was formerly known as Shuanghui or Shineway Group and calls itself ‘the world’s largest pork company’. Smithfield Foods in the United States is one of its subsidiaries.

Stepping up quarantine checks

Ever since ASF has been found in China, the Taiwanese authorities stepped up quarantine checks of items brought into the island. In total, 690 items have been examined.

For WH Group, the allegations are serious as they would imply that ASF infected pigs are still being sent to meatpackers. The company told news agency Reuters that it is looking for proof for this allegation. Inside China, no report of ASF infected meat has been made.

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WH Group and African Swine Fever

WH Group was connected to ASF in an earlier period.

The 2nd outbreak in China was at a slaughterplant in Zhengzhou city, Henan province. The slaughterhouse belonged to Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development, a subsidiary of the WH Group. That outbreak cost the company RMB6.6 million (€ 835,000).

Even before the finding of the virus in pork in Taiwan, WH Group already reported financial challenges. The company stated that in the 1st months of 2018, its net profit decreased for a variety of reasons, including lower prices, higher supplies and trade disputes. To news agency Reuters, WH Group’s executives stated that they expect pig prices in China to rise next year due to ASF.

ASF interactive outbreak map

The map below shows the latest state of affairs with regards to the reported outbreaks of African Swine Fever in China. In total, 59 outbreaks have now been reported to the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE). They were found in 14 different provinces and municipalities.

The latest outbreaks reported come from the south of the country and happened in Hunan and Yunnan provinces and Chongqing municipality. Perhaps most worth noting is a reported outbreak near Pu’Er City in the south of Yunnan province, as it is relatively close to the borders with Laos (170 km), Myanmar (210 km) and Vietnam (245 km). To put these figures in perspective: all other outbreaks in Yunnan province are at least 1,000 km north of Pu’Er City.

3 Infected provinces ‘free from ASF’

In the meantime, 3 formerly infected provinces now have been declared ‘free from ASF’ again: Jiangsu, Anhui and Henan provinces. In the map, they therefore no longer have an orange colour. In provinces coloured blue – the ones adjacent to infected provinces – a trading ban is still in effect. This means that their pigs are not allowed to cross province borders.

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ter Beek
Vincent ter Beek Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world