The Egyptian government is considering culling its entire pig herd as a precautionary measure against swine flu.
Up to 400,000 pigs could be killed in the move, which officials concede would not block the H1N1 virus, but could quell panic amongst the population.
So far the disease has not been found in pigs, but they are seen as unclean amongst Egypt’s predominantly-Muslim population.
Government officials said they would decide “within days” whether to relocate the country’s pig herd or kill them.
Owners would be compensated 1,000 Egyptian pounds (£121) per head, they added.
“If you see the conditions of the swine farms in Egypt, they are not healthy at all,” cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady told Reuters news agency.
“They are hazards in themselves, even without the swine flu. That’s why people are really getting afraid.”
Egypt has been one of the countries hardest-hit by bird flu and officials are worried about the impact another flu virus could have on the economy.
The World Health Organisation said it was not beneficial to cull pigs to prevent the spread of swine flu.
However relocating pigs away from urban areas could act as a precaution against the threat of bird flu.
Mr Rady said relocation would take about six months, was not viable and Egypt wanted to remove even a theoretical risk.
Farmers could open new farms with new livestock away from people, he added.
* For a FW comment on swine flu, see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog