China reported its first outbreak of the deadly African swine fever (ASF) on Friday, as authorities in Liaoning province in the country’s northeast culled almost 1,000 hogs and rushed to control the highly contagious disease, Reuters reports.
News of the infection will stoke concern about its spread in the world’s largest pig herd, and possibly to Japan, the Korean Peninsula and other parts of Asia.
Cases have been recorded across Europe, Russia and sub-Saharan Africa, but it has never occurred in East Asia until now, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Some 913 hogs were slaughtered near Shenyang, capital of Liaoning, and the outbreak had been effectively contained, the provincial animal health bureau said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued an alert following the outbreak, banning farmers from transporting hogs from the affected areas and from feeding the animals with untreated food waste.
The appearance of the disease is the latest blow to Chinese hog farmers, who have been struggling with a prolonged rout as years of frenzied investment to boost production have created oversupply, with output well beyond stagnating domestic demand.
A widespread outbreak and major culling would help remove some of the excess but it may also damage demand.
China is home to about half of the global pig population, with thousands of backyard and large-scale farms operating in the northern, central and southern regions. It produces about half of the world’s pork and is the top consumer of the meat.
An official at South Korea’s agriculture ministry said the country has not introduced any steps to increase quarantine checks or curb imports from China.
Japan has suspended imports of heat-treated Chinese pork after the first outbreak of African swine fever and has tightened quarantine operations at airports and seaports, especially for travelers from Shenyang and Dalian, near where the infection was found.
Japan already bans raw pork imports from China due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, the first official said.
Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Chinese pig-related stocks slumped. Muyuan Foodstuff Co. dropped 8.7 percent, Guangdong Wens Foodstuffs Group Co. fell 6.3 percent and Tangrenshen Group Co. declined 4 percent.
In Hong Kong, WH Group Ltd., the world’s biggest pork company, retreated 2.1 percent.
As we wrote earlier, the EU allocated 10 million euros to develop a vaccine against ASF.