Poultry & Meat

African Swine Fever Arrival in Germany Hits Pork Export Sector

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On September 10, Germany’s Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture confirmed an African swine fever (ASF) case in a wild boar found in Eastern Germany near the German-Polish border in the village of Sembtem, Spree-Neisse district. The event took place six days after Poland’s Chief Veterinary Officer announced an ASF outbreak on a 6,480-head hog farm in the Warmia and Mazury Province in northeastern Poland, marking the nation’s third-largest commercial ASF outbreak in 2020. Thus far this year, 82 ASF cases have been identified at commercial hog operations in Poland.

Meanwhile, the USDA’s Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) has issued a report about the recent outbreak in Germany from its post in Berlin. The analysis, published below, was prepared by Leif Erik Rehder and approved by Kimberly Sawatzki.

Exports to China Market at Stake

The first ASF case in Germany jeopardizes $867 million in exports to China, which will likely result in increased pork purchases by the PRC from other major suppliers, including the United States. ASF was not entirely unexpected, given the recent rise of cases in Western Poland. However, the confirmed ASF case will be devastating for the German pork sector, which is still reeling from the Covid-19 crisis – including slaughter facility disruptions stemming from outbreaks among its workers, excess supply, declining consumption, trade disruptions and depressed prices.

On-site ASF control measures are being conducted by the general veterinary authorities and the Provincial Crisis Management Center. A fence is now being erected around a 4 km radius of the site where the infected wild boar was found. Samples taken from bones of the decomposing carcass of the wild boar suggest that ASF entered Germany several weeks ago, indicating that additional ASF detections are likely. Search parties are looking for more dead boar carcasses in the area.

ASF is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and feral (wild) pigs in all age groups. It is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. The fever is spread by contact with infected animals’ body fluids, and can also be spread by ticks that feed on infected animals. Human are also a source of spread, as they can move the virus on vehicles or clothing. It can also be spread by feeding pigs uncooked garbage that contains infected pork products.

There is no treatment or vaccine available to deal with the problem. The only way to stop the deadly disease is to depopulate all affected or exposed swine herds. The World Organization for Animal Health, a reference organization of the World Trade Organization, requires reporting of ASF.

Germany became one of the top pork exporters to China in 2019, with sales value reaching $867 million. As a result of the confirmation of ASF in Germany, China and other nations are expected to ban German pork imports, as was the case when ASF was detected in Poland and other exporting European countries. This will exacerbate the glut of German pork in the EU, which had been fueled by declining domestic consumption.

Meanwhile, the German pork sector is still suffering from the impact of Covid-19. Outbreaks among workers affected by the novel coronavirus reduced slaughter capacity. Hog prices are expected to drop even more since the German pork sector is heavily dependent on trade, with exports exceeding $5.9 billion in 2019. While German pork will still be eligible for sale within the European Union, other major global pork producers will need to fill the gap created by Germany’s potential loss of its Chinese pork export market. The United States, Brazil, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands may experience a boost in trade.

Reuters Reports Pork Prices Fall 14%

Reuters, noting that Japan and South Korea are also banning pork imports from Germany, reported on September 14 that wholesale pig prices declined 14% last Friday.

“The Chinese export stop is a hard blow for farmers and for industry in Germany,” said André Vielstaedte, a spokesman Toennies, the nation’s biggest meatpacker and exporter.

Reuters pointed out that German exports typically include large volumes of pig parts such as ears, noses and feet, which are not popular in Europe but are enjoyed as delicacies in China and elsewhere in East Asia.

“For Germany there are no real alternative pork export markets visible the size of China and others in Asia,” said Tim Koch, a meat analyst at AMI, a German independent market consultancy.