HAMBURG (Reuters) – Germany said on Friday it was stepping up measures to prevent an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) after a case was discovered in a wild boar in Poland, 40 km (25 miles) from the border between the two countries.
The disease, which has hit the world’s top pork producer China hard, originated in Africa before spreading to Europe and Asia. It has killed hundreds of million pigs, while reshaping global meat and feed markets.
Around ten European Union countries are currently affected, with particularly bad outbreaks in Bulgaria and Romania.
Germany is issuing leaflets, posters and social media messages in several languages urging people not to throw away waste food in border areas, Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said.
Although wild boars, whose meat is popular in Europe, are spreading the disease, it can also be transmitted, for example, by a contaminated ham or sausage sandwich being thrown away and the garbage being reused by farmers to feed pigs.
Germany’s information campaign will be targeted at groups including travellers, truck drivers, farmers, hunters, harvest helpers and the armed forces, Kloeckner said.
“The latest cases show that the human factor plays a not inconsiderable role in the spread of the disease, for example in the incorrect disposal of waste food,” she said.
Should a case be found in a wild boar in Germany, the government is prepared to restrict movement in the affected area and relax hunting restrictions to cut wild boar numbers, Kloeckner said.
She also appealed to other German federal and regional authorities to support anti-ASF measures, warning of the enormous economic impact of outbreaks in other EU states.
There are fears in Germany that its exports of pork to China and other Asian countries could be threatened, with import bans regularly imposed on pig meat from regions where ASF has been discovered.
Germany’s pork exports to China rose 43% year-on-year in the first seven months of 2019, according to figures from market research consultancy AMI, fuelled by increased demand after ASF slashed China’s pig herd by as much as half since August 2018.
The country was Germany’s largest customer, taking 291,000 tonnes from a total of 1.04 million exported in the period, AMI said.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Kirsten Donovan)