Europe’s biggest pork exporter could be facing widespread bans on its pork in Asia after the first case of African swine fever was discovered in the carcass of a wild boar in the state of Brandenburg, close to the Polish border this week.
South Korea, which recorded a swine fever outbreak and carried out a large pig cull in 2019, announced on Thursday (10 September) that it was banning pork imports from Germany.
If swine fever spreads into Germany’s farmed pig population, China would no longer classify the country as “disease free,” which would have severe economic consequences for German pig farmers.
China’s pig population has been cut by half in the past two years, as it culled hundreds of millions of pigs to try and stamp out the disease.
This in turn has been a boon for German pork exporters selling their products in the Chinese market. China’s demand for pork from Germany last year was so great that it forced up domestic prices for German consumers.
In October, the European pig-meat industry said in a letter to the European Commission that the “recent sharp increase in the price of pig meat” could be attributed to the surge in Chinese imports from Europe.
According to the German office of national statistics, the country exported around 158,000 tonnes, or €424m (£392m, $502m) worth of pork to China between January and April 2020. Last year, German pork exports to China totalled around €1bn.
Swine fever has not spread to the same extent in Europe, but there have been cases in around 10 European countries, particularly Poland. Earlier this year, 450 pig farms in the west of Poland were quarantined after the disease was discovered at one of the farms.
Electric fences were erected between the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg to try and stop infected wild pigs coming across from Poland.
There is currently no vaccine for African swine fever, which is deadly for pigs, but cannot be transmitted to humans.