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Pork industry at risk as swine fever hits farms across Eastern Europe

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By Marina Jenkins  & Alasdair Sandford
Pork industry at risk as swine fever hits farms across Eastern Europe

More than 120,000 pigs have been slaughtered in Bulgaria in an attempt to limit the number of cases of swine fever.

An African strain of the virus is currently sweeping across farms in Eastern Europe.

In Romania, 300 new outbreaks were reported in July. Animal health experts are concerned it has the potential to devastate the continent’s pork industry.

Both Romania and Bulgaria have taken measures to prevent further spread of the virus. Hundreds of thousands of pigs have been culled.

But some farmers in southern Bulgaria were reluctant to follow suit. Many did not want to kill their uninfected animals.

The two countries are among the poorest in the European Union. The authorities face a significant challenge of getting farmers to bring in preventative measures.

Almost 130,000 pigs have been killed on six breeding farms in the Black Sea country in the past two weeks. Authorities have so far detected 30 incidents of the incurable disease.

Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, said the government will compensate owners who voluntarily cull their domestic pigs, as the country works to stamp out an outbreak of the highly contagious African swine fever.

The past year has seen the virus spread throughout Asia and several cases have been noted in Europe over the past five years.

This virus is carried by wild boar which can then mix with domestic pigs. This has the potential to then enter the domestic pork industry. Whilst swine fever is fatal for pigs, there is no threat to human health.

These outbreaks of swine fever could be a danger to Europe’s pork industry. Greece has already banned pork imports from Bulgaria and stepped up checks on the border.

Romania’s pork producers are accusing authorities of failing to implement preventative measures in full, branding the issue a "political disease".

The European Commission has issued a decision singling out Bulgaria, Poland and Lithuania as new high-risk areas.

So far, no cases have been seen in western Europe.

Journalist • Marina Jenkins