Mecklenburg-Vorpommern District

Germany’s plan to be ARSP-free again


African swine fever has been detected in Germany’s wild boar populations since mid-September. Fighting the virus is mainly the responsibility of state and regional authorities. Neither farmers nor hunters are fully convinced that the right approach has been taken.

Lots of overtime – that is what the employees of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Integration and Consumer Protection of the State of Brandenburg will certainly continue to be in the future. This ministry is responsible for combating African Swine Fever (ASF) virus problems in its wild boar population. The German state of Brandenburg – home to 2,300 pig farms – borders directly on Poland, where the virus has been circulating since 2014. ASP has also been detected in Germany since mid-September.

Main focus: keeping things under control

The main objective right now is to ensure that the virus stays within the restricted area where it has currently been detected, although developments over the past week make this more difficult. At the beginning of November 4 core zones were set up, 2 of them in the Oder-Spree district (one of which also extended into the Spree-Neisse district). A third was set up 60 km north in the Märkisch-Oderland district and a fourth in the south in Görlitz, Saxony, where 1 infected animal was shot. A total of 128 known cases have now been found. Control is paramount – the next step will be to eradicate the virus.

Fighting African Swine Fever

Due to the German organization, the state of Brandenburg is the first competent authority. Each individual state has a relatively large responsibility – coordinating the fight against animal health problems is one of them. The practical implementation of these plans is assigned to the rural districts, the administrative districts of the states. That makes sense, explains Brandenburg’s ministry Pig progress. After all, every district knows exactly what is happening on site. The ministry added that the strategy worked well when it came to fighting avian flu. The state’s animal disease emergency call center supports these districts in their work.

In full swing: the construction of permanent metal fences on the border between Poland and Germany.  - Photo: ANP / EPA / Hayoung Jeon

In full swing: the construction of permanent metal fences on the border between Poland and Germany. – Photo: ANP / EPA / Hayoung Jeon

List of guidelines

Trying to combat ASF is mainly to follow a list of guidelines. The MSGIV explains that the fight against ASF begins with the creation of zones around the outbreak foci with targeted measures for each zone. This approach is in line with EU directives.

Core zone (approx. 150km2)

  • Entry prohibited, with the exception of accredited persons and hunters;
  • Temporary fences to prevent wild boars from leaving the area;
  • Active surveillance to detect and safely remove wild boar carcasses.

Risk zone (approx. 25km around the two core zones)

  • Pigs have to stay in the house;
  • No harvest allowed to ensure the wild boar stays in place;
  • Temporary ban on hunting;
  • Notification system when dead wild boars are found;
  • Safe removal of wild boar carcasses followed by research into the ASF virus.

Buffer zone, 2,300km2 – the outer zone

  • Intensification of wild boar hunting;
  • Research on all hunted and dead wild boars;
  • Game surveillance has been intensified.

The hunting ban in the core and risk areas is intended to prevent the further spread of wild boar. Hunting within these zones is only allowed if they are completely fenced off and experts have a clear idea of ​​how the virus spreads in that particular zone. The harvest ban has serious consequences for arable farmers in the region.

Conversely, the MSGIV intensifies the struggle outside of this restricted area. The wild boar hunt is more intense and the search for wild boar carcasses is more active. Wild boar carcasses are screened for ASF to reduce the risk of the virus spreading and for early detection and alerting if the virus appears in new areas.

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Answers and doubts

Despite all of these guidelines, German pig producers are not convinced that the virus is being adequately controlled. Many pictures and videos of farmers have been sent to the Pig Producers Union (ISN). For example, farmers are concerned about the temporary fences that are blocking wild boar migration. These might be suitable for keeping sheep, they say, but wild boars are a different matter. Based on the concerns raised, the ISN concludes that many farmers may not have sufficient biosecurity on their farms.

Context is important, says ISN. After the discovery of ASP in Germany, the rules were not immediately implemented perfectly, but the ISN recognizes that the authorities need some time to coordinate their approaches. In addition, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, headed by Minister Julia Klöckner, shows good will and a sense of responsibility in dealing with ASP. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture coordinates and supports people in the field if necessary, says ISN Director Torsten Staack.

Plea for a more coordinated approach

Previously, the German Farmers ‘Association and the Hunters’ Association had launched a plea for a more coordinated approach at ASP. They also called for the construction of a solid, permanent border fence to keep wild boars out of Poland. Without a fence, infected wild boars can just keep coming in. Such a fence would effectively block the “back door” and ensure that no wild boar can enter Germany, thereby reducing the likelihood of the virus being introduced. The German Bundesrat approved the construction of such a permanent fence this summer; That is why the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – the northernmost of the three federal states bordering Poland – started building such a permanent fence in July. The state of Brandenburg also – and the state is contributing 6 million euros to their fence. The southernmost state of Saxony bordering Poland is not quite that far away.

Other federal states in Germany will help finance the fence. This support is indispensable, because the ARSP approach only works if it is funded nationwide, said Federal Agriculture Minister Klöckner.

African swine fever eradication

The next step in the repayment plan has now been announced. It involves the creation of “white zones” or zones of 5 km around the two inner zones. These would be properly fenced off both inside and outside with a neat 1.20 meter high fence. The construction of these fences has already started and is expected to take a few weeks. Once the fences are in place, the intent is to shoot down all of the game within the fences to effectively create a wild boar free corridor. A similar approach has been used in both Belgium and the Czech Republic. The first white zone is currently emerging around the southern core zone.

However, things are not as simple as they seem. Part of the White Zone borders must go through Poland. Although Germany has offered to pay for the construction of these barriers, the initial reactions have been hesitant.

Germany's plan to be ARSP-free again

Impact of ASF on the pig trade

The detection of ASF in wild boars in Germany has a strong influence on pig production in the country – possibly even across Europe. Shortly after the September 11 announcement, various countries outside the European Union closed their borders to German pork, including South Korea, Japan and especially China. As seen in illustration 1According to the French Pig and Pig Institute (IFIP), Germany exported 425,000 tons of pork to China in the first seven months of 2020. In the same period, South Korea bought 46,000 tons and Japan 15,000 tons.

As a result of the ASF outbreak, German prices fell by € 0.20 to € 1.27 / kg – a further decrease, as Covid-19 had also had a negative impact on prices as slaughterhouses had to run with reduced capacity. “German exports to Asia will be negatively affected for at least a year,” commented Jan-Peter van Ferneij, economist at IFIP, in the French pig trade newspaper Réussir Porc. He continued: “It is likely that there will be a shakeup in various European countries in relation to their function.”

Germany could send pork to surrounding countries like Spain, France or Italy, which in turn could increase their focus on China. Van Ferneij says: “Spanish meat packers still have export potential that is only limited by their cold storage capacity.”

The restructuring could also have a negative impact on the functioning of large meat processors in Germany such as Tönnies or Vion, which often slaughter fattening pigs originating in Denmark and the Netherlands. These pigs have to go somewhere else. So it’s no wonder that the Germans are looking for ways to relax the export bans. There is optimism in Germany that China could accept a regionalization approach and talks are ongoing to achieve this goal. That would mean that the rest of Germany, in which no ASF was detected, could continue to export.

Many thanks to the French agricultural magazine Réussir Porc for their editorial contribution and their figures.