Thai authorities confirmed the detection of ASF in a surface swab sample collected at a slaughterhouse in Nakhon Pathom province, marking the country’s first official confirmation of the disease.
Authorities launched a probe at the weekend, after growing public speculation that the disease was already decimating Thai pig herds, and amid accusations of a cover-up.
For years, the pig and pork exporting nation of Thailand did not report any outbreaks of African Swine Fever (ASF). For various years however, experts in the international pig business have assumed that Thailand also got infected. Without official confirmation from the authorities however, factual proof was absent.
Sorravis Thaneto, director-general of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) said that 1 sample tested positive for ASF out of the 309 collected, including blood samples from pigs at 10 farms and surface swabs at 2 slaughterhouses in swine-raising provinces. News agency Reuters quoted him saying, “We found 1 sample that tested positive for ASF.”
The authorities will declare a disease outbreak zone within a 5 km radius of where the sample was found, limit pig movements, consider culling suspected infected animals, and pay compensations to affected farms. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) will be notified, Sorravis said.
On Tuesday January 11, the cabinet approved 574 million baht ($ 17.15 million) in compensation to smallholder farms in 56 provinces where pigs had been culled last year to prevent ASF and other viral pig diseases. Nearly 5,000 farmers are yet to be compensated for the more than 159,000 pigs culled between March and October 2021, a government spokesman said.
The news comes just a short while after a consortium of 14 faculties of veterinary medicine in Thailand have expressed their serious concerns about the presence and spread of ASF within Thailand. They sent an urgent letter to the DLD.
The world of veterinary science stepped forward this weekend. The faculties jointly said that “there has been a large number of pig deaths in various areas of Thailand for some time, causing widespread losses to pig farms, especially small and medium-sized ones.” Deans of the 14 faculties of veterinary medicine have said to be very concerned about the situation, and are receiving a lot of questions from farmers and members of the public as well as ways how to fix it.
Things had started rolling when ASF was found in a miniature pet pig in Bangkok in December 2021. The animal’s owner brought the carcass to Kasetsart University, 1 of Thailand’s leading universities. Associate dean Nattavut Ratanavanichrojn of the university’s faculty of veterinary medicine confirmed the finding to news agency Reuters.
Last Friday he said, “ASF has been found in Thailand, because we found it.” The pig’s autopsy result was sent to the DLD, which responded that they would investigate. In the same household of the dead pig, 2 more miniature pigs died later as well.
The 14 veterinary faculties urged the authorities to urgently take steps to control the disease. to take damage to farmers and the pig farming industry in Thailand more seriously, and to be ready to provide academic support to relevant agencies in order to solve problems effectively and to sustainably build credibility and a good image of the veterinary profession in Thailand.
Even on Monday, the Thai authorities again responded by denying that there was a cover up of ASF. News agency Reuters reported about the authorities’ response, adding that the normal reaction is to point to it being Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).
The situation comes at a time when Thailand has suspended exports of live pigs until April 5 to boost domestic supplies. Authorities estimated Thailand will have just 13 million pigs this year, fewer than the 19 million it usually produces.
With a shortage of pigs, pig prices in Thailand were quoted at around 105 baht (US$ 3.12) per kg last week, 30% higher than prices from the same period a year ago, according to data from the Swine Raisers Association of Thailand. Also, prices for pork in Bangkok were seen this week at around 182.50 baht per kg (US$ 5.41), nearly 29% higher than in January 2021, according to Thai commerce ministry data.
The message of ASF being in Thailand made much more sense than that country managing to keep the virus out. After all, surrounding countries like Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia all have reported ASF. On the basis of the behaviour and spreading of the virus elsewhere in Asia as well as in Europe, it was to be expected that the virus would have entered Thailand as well.
In addition, in May 2021, Vietnam suspended the imports of Thai pigs for a while because it had found ASF virus in the batch. The reaction of the Thai authorities at the time was that preliminary investigations had shown there was no ASF virus in the pigs transported.