KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) mostly among wild boar, are spreading across eastern Europe and according to one analyst, the result could significantly alter the trading landscape for pork exporters in the areas where outbreaks have been reported.
After tracking through Russia earlier this year, where animal disease cases are not reported publicly, the disease has spread into Poland after sweeping through Hungary in a matter of two weeks. Recent cases have been reported just west of Warsaw, Poland. Analysts predict the disease is within two months of spreading into Germany, which will likely result in trade interruptions there. The strain of the virus does not threaten humans, but it can kill pigs in a matter of days and there is no vaccine to prevent it.
“As soon as it does hit Germany, Germany will get cut off from exports,” according to Christine McCracken, an executive director at Rabobank focusing on animal protein. During a session focusing on the status of the domestic and global protein markets, McCracken said a cut-off from exports is exactly what occurred in Hungary, as reports of ASF there resulted in shipments of pork from that country coming to a screeching halt. If Germany faces the same fate, this could serve as an opportunity for other countries to step in and supply Germany’s exporting partners with pork.
“It is something that actually could be a big positive for the US industry and it’s something to watch because it will be in the news a lot moving forward,” said McCracken.
Animal health officials are struggling to control the spread of ASF because it is being spread by wild boars. Officials in the regions have reportedly relaxed hunting regulations and extended the hunting season to cull some of the wild boars and limit the spread to hog barns in countries such as Germany. Because many workers in those barns live in Poland and work in Germany, it isn’t uncommon for them to spread the virus by carrying it over the border (sometimes by unknowingly transporting infected sandwich meat) after returning to work from a weekend spent at home.
“It’s going to spread quickly and there’s literally very little chance it doesn’t get into Germany within the year,” said McCracken.