AUSTRALIA, Sydney. Around a quarter of the world’s pigs are expected to die from African swine fever as authorities grapple with a complex disease spreading rapidly in the globalization era, the World Organization for Animal Health’s president told Associated Press (AP).
Dr. Mark Schipp, the organization’s president presents a difficult outlook for the industry in the coming years: „A sharp reduction in the world’s pig population would lead to possible food shortages and high pork prices, and it might also cause shortfalls in the many products made from pigs, such as the blood-thinner heparin that’s used in people.“
In the last year alone, ASF has spread widely, especially in China. The country is particularly affected and is responsible for half of the world's pig population, which is already affecting the market, Schipp told reporters at a briefing in Sydney. ASF, fatal to hogs but no threat to humans, has wiped out pig herds in many Asian countries. Chinese authorities have destroyed about 1.2 mill. pigs in an effort to contain the disease there since August 2018.
The price of pork has nearly doubled from a year ago in China, which produces and consumes two-thirds of the world’s pork. And China’s efforts to buy pork abroad, as well as smaller outbreaks in other countries, are pushing up global prices.
Progress had been made toward a vaccine, but Schipp, who is also Australia’s chief veterinary officer, said the work was challenging because the virus itself is large and has a complex structure. Its capacity to spread rapidly is shown by its spread from China in the past year, Schipp said. Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia and East Timor have had outbreaks as well.
He said the spread reflects the global movement of pork and of people but also the effect of tariffs and trade barriers, which sends those obtaining pork to seek out riskier sources. And Schipp said quality control was difficult for products such as skins for sausages, salamis and similar foods. “Those casing products move through multiple countries,” he commented to AP. “They’re cleaned in one, graded in another, sorted in another, partially treated in another, and finally treated in a fourth of fifth country. They’ve very hard to trace, through so many countries.”