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Germany takes steps to limit African swine fever spread

11th Sep 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The German authorities are putting plans into place plans to minimise the impact of African swine fever on the feral and domestic pig herds. 

wild boar 5As German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner confirmed the case in a wild boar found near the Polish border, on Thursday, she said the authorities have prepared for the eventuality and will be putting in place measures to prevent the disease spreading further.

Ever since the virus was found just a few kilometres from the German border in Poland, the country has been almost expecting an incursion, despite implementing measures like electric fencing along the border and measures aimed at controlling wildlife spread. It has also, as the Minister said, been drawing up contingency plans. 

The European Commission has put the legal framework in place governing ASF outbreaks and the German authorities have introduced a number of measures in the locality. 

However, it will be of some concern that the carcase, 'accidentally' discovered in a harvested field, was decayed suggesting the virus has been in the locality for a few weeks.

At a press briefing on Thursday, Harald Altekrüger, district administrator of the Spree-Neisse district, said core zone of 3 km around the site has now been fenced. This area will be set up as a 'quiet zone' with entry and harvest prohibition in order to prevent further wild boars from migrating, German pig industry body ISN reported.

In addition, a hazard zone with a radius of 15km and a 30km buffer zone have been established.

 One pig farmer is reportedly located within the core zone and 17 pig farmers are located within the hazard zone.

Movement bans and sampling to test for ASF apply within the zones, alongside an 'intensive search for fallen game'.

ISN said there had already been 'close coordination' with the EU, the international animal disease organization OIE and the trading partners, including discussions with China on Wednesday night, although it is expected that trade restrictions will be applied.

ISN said: "So far, it is about a single wild boar find that has tested positive in this country. The main focus must now be on analysing the situation thoroughly and taking effective countermeasures quickly. Everything must be done to ensure that swine fever does not spread any further."

Highlighting the ASF regulation and contingency plans, it stressed that a lot or work has been done to prepare for this situation in the past two to three years.

"We have the impression that we are therefore well positioned in Germany," ISN said. "It is important that the procedure, which has been coordinated with all parties involved, is now consistently put into practice."

Joachim Rukwied, the president of the German Farmers' Association, said: “African swine fever is harmless to humans. Pork can still be eaten without hesitation. Still, we are very concerned. The virus is a threat to domestic pigs and wild boars.

"There is currently no vaccination against the virus. Our pig farmers have already taken extensive biosecurity measures to secure their stocks. The precautionary measures must be further strengthened.

"We call on politicians and authorities to do everything possible to contain this epidemic and push it out of Germany again. This also includes the consistent hunting of wild boar and a stable fence. We absolutely need a wild boar-free zone on the Polish border.

"Travellers are not allowed to throw away sausage sandwiches and other leftovers carelessly - because the virus can survive in them too."

Well prepared

In a statement EU umbrella farming organisation  Copa-Cogeca said the scenario, 'considered probable for some time now', was being 'taken very seriously', by the European and German authorities. But it said that, on the ground, pig farmers of the region are prepared and trained to avoid their units becoming infected.

The measures put in place, mostly addressing wildlife populations, 'prove again the importance of a strong EU wide programme on wild boar population management', Copa-Cogeca said.

Pekka Pesonen, Copa and Cogeca secretary-general said: “The identification of infected wild boars in Germany today is of course a source of concern for the whole European pig meat sector.

"Nevertheless we should be reassured. Germany proved its capacity for rapid response and effective actions while the Brandenburg region has a low pig production. The recent and positive management by Belgian and Czech authorities of ASF shows that biosecurity measures taken by farmers and public authorities are efficient in the EU.”

Antonio Tavares, chair of the Copa-Cogeca Working Party on pig meat called urged EU business partners to 'respond in a proportionate manner to this announcement'.

"It is essential that they acknowledge all measures in place to contain ASF and keep their trust in the sector. We welcome Commission and Member states efforts to push for the recognition of the regionalisation principles.

"At a difficult time for the European pig meat sector, it is essential that European and national authorities take efficient and quick measures to support the sector. The Commission's groundwork in raising awareness and promoting biosecurity measures should be highlighted.”