OMAHA (DTN) -- Lean hog prices are facing a surprising shock as markets are responding to the announcement late Wednesday by USDA that African swine fever (ASF) had been found in pigs in the Dominican Republic, the first known finding of the disease among swine in the Western Hemisphere.
After ASF swept through Asia, wrecking the Chinese pork industry, as well as Europe as Germany continues to battle the disease, the finding of ASF in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean is getting a little too close to home.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service stated the U.S. "has numerous interlocking safeguards in place to prevent ASF from entering the United States." Already swine and pork products from the Dominican Republic are prohibited from entering the U.S. from previous swine fever restrictions. The Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection staff also is increasing inspections for travelers from the Dominican Republic to ensure they do not bring in prohibited products, USDA stated.
The National Pork Producers Council also stressed the U.S. is free of ASF.
"The United States has significantly bolstered biosecurity to protect the U.S. swine herd since ASF broke in China nearly three years ago and began spreading to other parts of the world," said Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council.
"We are thankful for steps taken by the USDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including strengthened border inspection and the implementation of an active surveillance program designed to quickly detect and eradicate ASF," Wagstrom said. "These measures are particularly important now that ASF has been detected in the Western Hemisphere for the first time in approximately 40 years."
ASF has no human health implications, but the disease spreads rapidly through a swine herd and is deadly to swine. ASF led to rapid slaughter of millions of hogs in China in late 2018 and early 2019, cutting the world's largest swine herd down as much as 40% and leading China to basically rebuild its entire swine industry in the process. The ripple effect led to a high volume of global pork exports to China, including from the U.S., in response.
Chinese officials said in 2020 the country had gotten a handle on the disease, but USDA in April 2020 cited that underreporting of cases was now a problem in China as producers in the country were reluctant to report any new outbreaks because of fears of economic losses.
Germany was originally hit with ASF in its feral hog population last year, which effectively cut off exports from the country. Earlier this month, German officials reported ASF had been found in at least three farms, affecting domestic pigs.
U.S. and Canadian officials have since been concerned about the potential risks for ASF landing in North America and the potential devastation it would cause. The risks are high, considering the U.S. exported a record $7.7 billion in pork in 2020 and is largely keeping close pace with that sale volume so far in 2021. The risk of a single case could effectively close U.S. export markets.
The potential risk of ASF has been one reason USDA has spent as much as $75 million on various projects to increase investment to try to control the country's feral hogs. It's estimated the U.S. has 7 million or so feral hogs, which have proven to be strong vectors for spreading ASF in other countries.
The National Pork Producers Council highlighted various measures for pork producers to ensure biosecurity:
-- Use caution when hosting on-farm visitors from an ASF-positive region of the world; follow downtime recommendations from USDA's Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
-- Review your biosecurity protocols to ensure consistent practice of appropriate safeguards.
-- Fill out the Foreign Animal Disease Preparation Checklist found here and enroll in the Secure Pork Supply program. https://library.pork.org/…
-- Visit with your feed suppliers to discuss the origin of the feed ingredients they are using in your diets.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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