The National Pork Board today offered a statement of support to the National Pork Producers Council as it took the extremely rare step to cancel the 2019 World Pork Expo scheduled June 5-7, 2019, in Des Moines.
“We completely understand that to cancel World Pork Expo is a tough decision that no one wants to make,” said Steve Rommereim, president of the National Pork Board and a pig farmer from Alcester, South Dakota. “But when it comes to the ongoing spread of African swine fever in Asia and Europe, caution must come first. We stand by our pig-farming partners in doing anything we can to stem the spread of this disease.”
The Pork Checkoff has been helping to inform producers’ response to African swine fever since it broke in China in August 2018. The fundamental purposes of the Checkoff are swine research, producer education and pork promotion. To that end, the organization has provided comprehensive information through a dedicated foreign animal disease web page located at pork.org/fad.
Key materials on the page that every pig farmer need to know center on protecting their herd through following biosecurity principles and ensuring every pig farm has a defined Premises Identification Number, or PIN, which are fundamental to the U.S. pork industry’s Secure Pork Supply plan. Details on the Secure Pork Supply plan are at securepork.org.
“We acknowledge the relatively low risk that World Pork Expo may have posed to the introduction of African swine fever to the U.S. But any risk needs to be managed – and that is our purpose at the National Pork Board,” Rommereim said. “This is a serious global issue and we need to maintain our commitment and oversight to managing this disease spread.”
Rommereim encourages all U.S. pig farmers to review the foreign animal disease preparation checklist and biosecurity steps to take, among other materials located on pork.org/fad.
Outside of its origins on the African continent, African swine fever (ASF) continues its relentless march through parts of Asia and Europe, causing increasing disruption to the world’s pork production. Much of the world’s attention has been on China due to its No. 1 position in global pork production. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) now reports that nearly all of China’s provincial level administrative units (see heat map) have reported one or more ASF breaks, which means all but the far west (and Hong Kong and Macau) of China now has some level of ASF exposure.
Official reports peg China’s losses to culling and mortality at about one million pigs since the outbreak was reported last August. However, unofficial reports put that number as much as 10 times that amount. According to economist Steve Meyer with Kerns and Associates, China’s breeding herd is down 19 percent from one year ago and total market hogs are down 16 percent from a year ago. This has greatly hindered China’s ability to feed its population pork, which it typically desires. This could be a driver behind the recent largest purchase of U.S. pork by China in two years despite the self-imposed tariffs.
Non-governmental reports from U.S. pork industry visitors cite China’s ASF as “endemic,” meaning fleeting hope of containment or eradication anytime in the near future. This is further evidenced by the recent confirmation of the ASF virus in neighboring Vietnam, where it has been confirmed in 17 provinces in the northern part of the country. Other pig-raising countries nearby with growing levels of concern include Thailand, whose pork industry is worth $3.3 billion a year and is considered the region’s most advanced. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Thai pork is raised on large farms, which should improve biosecurity. However, neighboring countries are typically less sophisticated in their pig-rearing abilities.
The Department of Agriculture has announced additional steps to keep African swine fever from entering the United States, even as the disease spreads internationally.
The steps strengthen the protections announced last fall after the deadly swine disease reached China. USDA says the goal remains to protect our nation’s swine industry from the disease. The new measures include training additional beagle teams with Customs and Broder Patrol to identify pork products, expand screening of arriving products into the United States, increase inspection of garage feeding facilities, develop reliable testing procedures for the virus in grains and feeds, and heighten producer awareness.
USDA says the steps are in continued cooperation with Canada and Mexico on a North American coordinated approach to ASF defense and response. ASF is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs in all age groups. It is spread by contact with the body fluids of infected animals. It can also be spread by ticks that feed on infected animals.