Germany establishes emergency measures as swine fever draws closer

The German state of Brandenburg has erected about 120 km (75 miles) of electric fencing to prevent wild boars infected with African swine fever (ASF) from straying across the border from Poland and infecting its pig herd.
calendar icon 3 February 2020
clock icon 4 minute read

Potentially large losses

ASF has been spreading across eastern Europe but is doing the greatest damage in Asia and has devastated pig farms in China in the past year, reshaping global meat trade and raising prices.

China's pork output has slumped to a 16-year low as herds were culled to stamp out the disease, leading to a surge in imports of pork, beef and chicken to fill the gap.

Germany's pork exports to China rose 43 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of 2019 and it was Germany's single biggest foreign market.

Asian countries, including China, regularly impose import bans on pork from regions where ASF has been discovered and German pig farmers could face huge losses from both the drop in exports and costs arising from methods to combat the disease if it is found in Germany, said farmers' association DBV.

"It is difficult to estimate how high the damage will be for German pig farmers," said DBV Secretary General Bernhard Kruesken. "But we estimate at least a triple-digit million euro sum."

Any export ban on German pork would also have knock-on effects for other European countries.

“The main suppliers of piglets for Germany in the EU are Denmark and the Netherlands. That means there will be effects in the Dutch and Danish markets quite immediately," said Thomas Sanchez, a policy advisor with responsibility for pigmeat at EU farmers group, Copa Cogeca.

To help deal with the threat of ASF, German and Polish agriculture ministries are considering creating a fenced corridor on both sides of their border and a "drastic" reduction in wild boar numbers by relaxing rules on shooting them.

The Brandenburg fence was built in December and is designed to be temporary. Another fence is being built in the border state of Saxony.

"We have found no signs that the fence has been broken through by wild boars and no sick boars have been found along the fence," said Gabriel Hesse of Brandenburg's state health and consumer protection ministry.

"There are hopes that the fence is effective, but these animals are remarkably strong."

wild boar and piglets in a field
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