For many it could not have been a shock – but when it happened it made the pig industry shudder: In Germany, ASF was found in a wild boar. What will happen, what to look out for and what can be learned? Pig Progress editor Vincent ter Beek searches for answers to 10 questions about this new situation.
As soon as the German authorities decided to erect a permanent fence to prevent wild boars infected with African swine fever from entering their territory from Poland, then it is too late. On Thursday, September 10, the German authorities confirmed the virus in a “decomposed carcass of an infected female wild boar”, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
It was found in the municipality of SchenkendÃ¶bern, in the Spree-Neisse district in the state of Brandenburg, about 6 km from the border with Poland.
A wild boar in a forest in Germany .. – Photo: Shutterstock
Let’s start with optimism: Could this find be an isolated incident?
It’s not entirely impossible. According to the German reference laboratory Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI), the virus was found in an “almost completely decomposed carcass”. This suggests that the virus was introduced into Germany a few weeks ago, the laboratory wrote on its website. That would have given the scavengers (including other wild boars) plenty of time to spread or become infected with the virus. However, despite increased vigilance over the past few months, there has been no further evidence of the virus. But it is still at the beginning and no doubt the search in the area will be intensified in the next few days – so maybe more cases will be discovered soon.
Is it likely that there are other infected wild boars?
This is very possible – in this context it is good to do a little research on the behavior of wild boars. Female wild boars usually live in groups of around 3 or 4 people, including piglets; the groups are called “sounders”. Logically, one would assume that if a female wild boar had been infected, more sows or piglets would have had a good chance of being exposed.
How did the virus get to Germany?
Now that is an interesting question to which there can be no easy answer. The ‘German’ infection occurred 30 km from the nearest known location of a positive wild boar in Poland. This is a relatively long distance for the virus to make a “natural” jump as most outbreaks occur relatively close together, see also the map.
In its analysis, the FLI pointed to a migrating wild boar. Male wild boars are known to roam individually for long stretches – but here’s the thing, it was the carcass of a female animal. Could birds have played a role as mechanical vectors? The FLI also does not rule out the role of people who may have thrown contaminated pork away.
How will non-EU countries react?
Seven international partners have already responded by closing their borders for German pork: In Asia these are China, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines; in Latin America, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina – and more are likely to follow. For pork exports to these countries, a declaration is required that Germany is free from ASF and that this cannot currently be presented. All in all, a bitter blow for the German pig industry – because pork is also in high demand in Asia because of ASF; it resulted in record high pig prices in 2019.
According to the Reuters news agency, Germany has so far been the third largest supplier of pork to China, covering 14% of imports worth â¬ 1 billion / year. The German authorities are in talks with the Chinese about a regionalization approach, similar to the one in the EU countries (see also Question 6).
South Korea, the 2ndnd largest non-EU buyer of German pork, was the first country to announce a closure of the German pork markets.
The pork powerhouses of Denmark and the Netherlands will also feel the effects indirectly, as they send many piglets to Germany for rearing.
What impact will pig prices have in Germany?
They are falling as export markets dwindle in the near future and disrupt supply and demand. Something similar is currently happening in Germany – a decline in pig prices was reported in Germany last Friday when the prices for slaughter pigs fell by 13.6% to â¬ 1.27 / kg after the news became known, reported the Reuters news agency. In Belgium, prices in 2018 fell from â¬ 1.36 to â¬ 1.09 net weight in just a few weeks.
How will other EU countries react?
Calm. The situation is well known within the European Union – it is a wild boar, not a domestic pig, and regionalization is agreed. Everyone within the EU is aware that Germany’s largest pig producers such as Lower Saxony or North Rhine-Westphalia are hundreds of kilometers away from this one site and that an outbreak in wild boars is different from an outbreak in domestic pigs. Therefore, the outbreak has no impact on deliveries within the EU.
In this context it is interesting, for example, how Denmark reacted. The country, which mainly ships weaned pigs to Germany, has a strict biosecurity system for washing empty trucks when they return to the country. As a result of the find, part of eastern Germany was recently colored âblackâ, as can be seen in the following tweet. This entails additional, stricter procedures, ie quarantine and no direct visits to the factories.
â ï¸DANISH transport standard: New black zones due to https://t.co/CcEUl5yaub #transport pic.twitter.com/wNlz2NDZbw
– Asger KjÃ¦r Nielsen (@AKN_VSP) September 12, 2020
Who will benefit from the international trade bans?
Other exporting countries will most likely step in to fill the void.
Within Europe, the star of the Spanish pig industry has risen rapidly in recent years and has overtaken Germany as the number 1 pig producing country. For example, according to the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), Spain contributed 17% of total pork imports to China in the first six months of 2020.
The USA also took over 19% of the pork imports to China in the first half of the year. Most likely, these two countries as well as Brazil and Canada will be happy to increase their pork exports.
What does the outbreak say about the speed of propagation?
The first ASF outbreak in wild boars in Poland occurred on February 13, 2014 near the town of Szudzialowo in north-eastern Poland. It took the virus 6.5 years to cross Poland and reach Germany – the distance to the East German SchenkendÃ¶bern municipality is 625 km as the crow flies. I know that the shift of the virus westward has not been gradual and has been heavily supported by some people to move the virus to western Poland at the end of 2019. Nevertheless, we can now state that the virus is spreading to Poland at an average speed of. has crossed 100km / year.
How can the outbreak be controlled?
The Czech Republic has shown that it is possible to limit ASF outbreaks in wild boar with a decent and thoughtful strategy that requires coordination, funding and complete transparency, including fences and smart hunting. The Czech Republic was declared ASF-free again at the beginning of 2019. Belgium followed the Czech example; this country hopes to regain its ASF free status this autumn. The domestic pig herd was never affected in either country.
How long will it all take?
In order to regain âASF-freeâ status, countries must prove that the virus has disappeared from their wild boar population for at least 12 months. It will depend entirely on how well Germany manages to keep the boar situation under control.
So far, the record has been set by the Czech Republic, where it took a little more than 1.5 years to get back on track. The first outbreak was reported in June 2017, the last (emaciated) positive carcasses were found in April 2018. The EU officially declared the country ASF-free at the end of February 2019.