By Agnieszka de Sousa
The deadly hog virus that has roiled the global meat industry reached a key pork region in Poland, increasing the risk of disruption in the European Union’s fourth-biggest producer.
The first case of African swine fever was recorded in a dead wild boar in the western province of Wielkopolskie this week, Poland’s Chief Veterinary Inspectorate said Thursday. That comes as more cases have recently been reported in the Lubuskie province, closer to the border with Germany, the EU’s top pork supplier.
Poland has grappled with the virus since 2014, but until last month most cases had been detected in the country’s east. While the disease hasn’t been found on a pig farm in Wielkopolskie, the outbreak poses an increased threat to output. The EU has become a crucial supplier of pork to China -- where the virus has devastated herds -- and those exports could be at risk if the situation worsens.
Reasons to be concerned “are much less about the size of the pig herd in the local area and more the fact that it is so difficult to control the spread of this disease when human negligence” contributes to outbreaks, said Justin Sherrard, a Utrecht-based global animal-protein strategist at Rabobank International. “It’s very hard to imagine that it got there by the movement of wild animals alone.”
Polish authorities have been extending a fence and local hunters were instructed to eliminate all wild boar near the town of Zielona Gora in the west, the Associated Press reported this week, citing Agriculture Minister Krzysztof Ardanowski. Soldiers have also combed forests in search of dead animals, Ardanowski said. The country culled more than 200,000 wild boar earlier this year.
Wielkopolskie accounts for more than a third of Poland’s pig herds. The country produced 2.1 million tons of pork last year, behind Germany, Spain and France, European Commission data show.
“There are commercial farms in this part of Poland,” Sherrard said. “German authorities will also have a shared interest in ensuring the disease is contained there. Whenever there is a new case, we should be thinking how do we stop that from spreading. That has to be the priority.”