An outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) has been reported at a large pig farm in China, despite the modern industrial farms supposedly having the best levels of disease prevention.
The farm is the largest yet hit by the disease, which has infected almost 100 farms in 23 provinces and municipalities across China since August 2018.
The farm in Suihua city, in the north-east of the country, holds 73,000 pigs and is jointly owned by the Heilongjiang Asia-Europe Animal Husbandry Co and Danish investment fund IFU.
Some 4,686 pigs have been infected and 3,766 animals have died, China’s ministry of agriculture and rural affairs has said.
All animals on infected farms must be culled under current rules.
More than 200,000 pigs on infected farms have been culled, according to news agency Reuters’ tally of official figures. ASF is deadly to pigs but does not affect humans.
China has the world’s largest hog herd and is the world’s largest pork-consuming nation. It produces about 50% of the world’s pigmeat, with a national herd of about 500 million pigs.
The UK exports around 180,000t of pork a year, with 64% of this going to the EU and 18% going to China.
With ASF spreading across China, the country’s import demand could increase significantly, supporting global pork prices and providing an opportunity for the UK.
UK pigmeat exports in October 2018 were significantly higher than a year earlier, with total exports up by 24%, according to AHDB Pork.
Sales to China doubled (+2,000 tonnes), likely a consequence of the disease disrupting its domestic industry, and pig offal exports to China increased by 65%.
However, despite the possible business opportunities, AHDB Pork has reminded UK farmers that the disease remains a very real threat.
In September, the government raised the risk status of ASF entering the UK from low to medium after an outbreak in eastern Europe saw 180,000 pigs culled.
This was due to the UK continuing to import frozen pigmeat from affected countries.
More on African Swine Fever
Get the latest news about ASF and what you can do to prevent the virus entering your farm with the Pig Progress African Swine Fever information hub.