8,000 pigs will have to be depopulated from farms in Northern Italy to avoid cross-contamination with African Swine Fever (ASF). The animals are located on farm sites in the area where ASF was found in wild boar in January.
By the beginning of February, the region of the ASF outbreaks in Northern Italy had grown to an area of 30 km north to south and 25 km east to west. At least 27 wild boar carcasses were found, according to the reports by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The local veterinary institute ISZUM on Friday February 4, reported that the count had gone up to 29.
The outbreaks have taken place in an area north of the city Genua, in and around the mountainous national park Capanne di Maracolo. The cases were found in the regions Liguria and Piemonte, in roughly equal numbers. 1 of the wild boar carcasses was found at 3km north of downtown Genua.
Of the infected regions, especially Piemonte is important for pig production. That region is located around Turin and stretches out until the Alps. On February 1, the Italian newspaper La Stampa attended a webinar of the Italian agricultural organisation Confagricoltura. It was discussed that Piemonte houses roughly 1.3 million pigs, of which the majority are housed in the provinces Cuneo (931,000) and Turin (190,000).
The infected province in Piemonte is Alessandria, with a relatively low amount of pigs, i.e. 29,000. The area designated as “infected” currently covers 78 municipalities, housing the 8,000 pigs which will have to be removed, to avoid cross-contamination. The area went into a lockdown because of the virus, meaning that initially the pigs could not be moved elsewhere.
In order to fight the ASF crisis, this year roughly € 50 million will become available, the Italian authorities announced. With that money, the loss in income will have to be compensated (€ 35 million) and also a biosecurity control zone will have to be put in place (€ 15 million). Prices for finisher pigs in the infected area dropped in recent weeks from € 1.70/kg to € 1.50/kg with much lower prices even having been offered.
Enrico Allasia, chairman of Confagricoltura in Piemonte, called on the region to start, as soon as possible, with fighting the problem of wild boar overpopulation. In his opinion, about 50,000 pigs would have to be shot in Piemonte alone “to restore an adequate environmental balance and to protect biodiversity.”
Allasia added that the local farmers are ready to do what it takes to get back to work.
Italy found its first infected carcass on January 3. The strain of the virus is genotype II, identical to the strain found elsewhere in Europe and different from the strain endemic in Sardinia. To fight the crisis, Angelo Ferrari has been named to be interregional commissioner for African Swine Fever crisis – he is also director of the Zooprophylactic Institute in Turin. The European Union will also send officials to get a better understanding of the situation.
Co-author: Kees van Dooren