ASF found in South Korea, country on high alert

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/mustafaU
© GettyImages/mustafaU

Related tags African swine fever South korea Vietnam China feed demand

African Swine Fever (ASF) has been confirmed in South Korea, the eight country in Asia to have experienced an outbreak of the disease.

The virus was discovered at a pig farm in Paju, near the border with North Korea, which reported its first case of ASF in May, the agriculture ministry said on Tuesday [September 17].

South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) is said to be investigating other farms.

MAFRA said that nearly 4,000 pigs would be culled to prevent the spread of the virus, with the country increasing its animal disease alert level to the maximum, according to Reuters.

The South Korean agricultural ministry has also issued an order for a halt nationwide in the movement of livestock for 48 hours as it tries to determine the source of the virus.

South Korea has a pig population of 11.3 million, reported Reuters, citing data from Statistics Korea. Pork tops the rankings in terms of meat consumption in that Asian country, with 27kg of pork consumed per person in 2018, as per that data.

Customs data shows, in the first eight months of this year, the country imported 374,961 tons of pork, down 3.6% from 388,772 tons over the same period the year prior. In 2018, South Korea’s pork imports were over 570,000 tons.

The UK's National Pig Association (NPA) has called for a more robust approach from the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the UK port authorities to keeping disease out of the UK, after UK farming minister, George Eustice, said an outbreak of ASF in the UK is likely within a year.

The politician was responding to a letter from NPA chairman, Richard Lister.

Commenting on the UK government’s efforts to keep ASF out of the country, Eustice said: “The UK risk level is currently set at medium, which means an outbreak is expected within a year.”

ASF spread in Asia 

ASF has already been reported in seven other Asian countries, including Mongolia, North Korea, China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In Vietnam, ASF has caused animal feed demand to drop by 20%-30% in 2019, compared with last year, with some feed mills in north Vietnam having suspended operations due to the decline in feed consumption, reported S&P Global Platts, citing market sources.

Speaking to this publication​ earlier this month, Justin Sherrard, animal protein strategist, Rabobank, said the ASF epidemic will be a multi-year and multi-region issue that brings structural change to meat production globally.

“The scope of the decline in the Chinese herd numbers is such that it will take years to recover from, but it is also because there is no vaccine. Producers are constantly facing the disease pressure, they are facing a challenge of deciding if they should repopulate, or deciding what is the right process to follow to repopulate, what do they need to do to increase biosecurity to the point where they can be confident that repopulating will allow them to take piglets through to slaughter?”

In fact, it is questionable that China will ever recover, said the analyst.

The scope is incredible – by the end of this year, 50% of the herd in China will have disappeared – that is a quarter of the world’s pigs."

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