China scram­bles to raise mil­lions of fever-free pigs

Irish Examiner - - Business - Lucca de Paoli and Ana­toly Medet­sky

For Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties, strug­gling with the rapid spread of African swine fever, a dis­ease that’s threat­en­ing to dev­as­tate the world’s largest pig in­dus­try, Rus­sia’s num­ber-one pork pro­ducer has the an­swer: get big­ger and cleaner, or get out.

Mi­ra­torg, which raises three mil­lion pigs an­nu­ally, not only has strict quar­an­tine mea­sures at ev­ery level of its farms, but it also bans work­ers from rear­ing their own pigs and from hunt­ing wild boar. Such biose­cu­rity has en­abled it to thrive in the face of one of the world’s most dan­ger­ous swine dis­eases. The dis­ease-control mea­sures are the rea­son why Rus­sian pork pro­duc­tion is on track to dou­ble by 2019, from 2007, when African swine fever be­gan its march across the transcon­ti­nen­tal na­tion. It’s ev­i­dence that the dev­as­tat­ing virus — which had 1,000 sep­a­rate out­breaks in Rus­sia and which halved the num­ber of small-scale pig­geries — can be man­aged.

Now that a vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal strain of the con­ta­gion — which kills pigs within a few days, but isn’t known to harm hu­mans — has spread across neigh­bour­ing China, vet­eri­nary au­thor­i­ties re­alise that farms there may need to fol­low the same path as Mi­ra­torg. “When the virus ap­peared in Rus­sia, about half of our pork out­put came from house­hold farms, and they weren’t ready to adapt,” said Yury Ko­valev, h e ad o f t h e c ou n t r y ’ s Na­tional Pig Farm­ers’ Union. “Small farms be­gan to die away. It was hard for them to have ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion,” he said. Mean­time, highly in­dus­tri­alised pig farms in­creased pro­duc­tion de­spite the epi­demic, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter pub­lished in April by sci­en­tists at Rus­sia’s Fed­eral Re­search Cen­tre for Virol­ogy and Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy. In China, control of the dis­ease is be­ing hin­dered by the mil­lions of small pig farms and by ship­ping pigs from farm to farm over dis­tances as great as 1,400 miles.

“China is learn­ing its own lessons,” said Matthew Stone, a deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the World Or­gan­i­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health, in Paris. “There is a clear un­der­stand­ing that farm biose­cu­rity prac­tices have been a chal­lenge for them, and some­thing they need to ad­dress,” he said. Nowhere is the im­pe­tus greater. China’s pork in­dus­try is much larger than Rus­sia’s. It’s home to half the planet’s pigs, which sup­ply a €113bn pork in­dus­try and are the dom­i­nant source of meat. Neigh­bours, in­clud­ing North Korea, Viet­nam, Laos, and Myan­mar, also de­pend on pork. African swine fever took hold in China four months ago and trans­mis­sion has ac­cel­er­ated, with at least one fresh out­break a day, on av­er­age, last month. It’s now en­croached on ma­jor cities, in­clud­ing Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Chengdu, and Kun­ming.

Pic­ture: AP

Work­ers dis­in­fect pass­ing ve­hi­cles in an area hit by the African swine flu out­break on the out­skirts of Bei­jing, China.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.