The highly transmissible and fatal disease for pigs, known as African swine fever (ASF), continues to spread throughout Europe. Leading some to believe the next major outbreak could be nearing and may result in soaring pork prices.
Bloomberg reports the latest case has been reported in a wild boar in Italy. It’s the first reported case in the country since the virus was first detected in Western Europe in 2018.
ASF doesn’t present a risk to humans but is devastating for pig herds. Italy is the seventh-largest pork producer in the European Union, with about 9 million pigs.
Italy’s national reference centre confirmed the ASF case was detected in the northern Italian region Piedmont. The department said crisis units were being set up to control the spread.
“We are acting with the utmost timeliness, the immediate and coordinated implementation of control measures in wild suids (pigs) is essential in an attempt to confine and eradicate the disease as much as possible,” said Piedmont’s health deputy, Luigi Icardi.
ASF appears to be spreading closer and closer to Spain and France, two of the European Union’s top pork suppliers. Germany has been battling ASF for more than a year as China has already placed an import ban from there.
A possible outbreak in Europe comes as the continent faces a supply glut of pork that has sent prices to a multi-year low.
“ASF is not only a German problem or a Polish problem or an Italian problem, it’s a European problem,” said Miguel Angel Higuera Pascual, director of Spanish pig-farmers association Anprogapor.
“The disease is moving. It’s a nightmare to think about how we can control the movement of wild animals,” Pascual said.
What’s also concerning is the ASF strain found in the wild bore in Italy matches the one that spread around Europe in 2007.
Justin Sherrard, a global animal protein strategist at Rabobank International, said the latest outbreak is a “further warning shot across the bow.” It could result in the culling of herds that would send pork prices soaring, adding to food inflation woes.