The state of Brandenburg, Germany has installed about 75 miles of electric fencing to deter wild boars infected with African swine fever (ASF) from crossing the border it shares with Poland and infecting its pig herd, Reuters reports.
The plan has some farmers skeptic, though.
“It looks rather inevitable that swine fever will come,” Hans-Christian Daniels told Reuters. His farm near Tauche, close to the Polish border, has 11,000 pigs. “This could cause a dramatic fall in prices.”
ASF is creeping dangerously close to Germany, which is Europe’s largest pork producer. A case of the viral disease was discovered in a wild boar in Poland just 12 km from the German border last month, Reuters says.
A case being confirmed in Germany could prompt an import ban, ending the boom for local pig farmers, who have seen exports to China jump due to the ASF outbreaks in Asia. It could also have knock-on effects in the Netherlands and Denmark, where the main suppliers of piglets for Germany are based.
The outlet reports that farmers like Daniels have taken precautions to ward of the disease, but the biggest risk are the wild boars that roam the German-Polish border. Those boars have already infected 10 countries around eastern Europe, with Poland reporting 55 outbreaks of ASF in wild boars just in December.
“We do not know exactly how many wild boar we have in Brandenburg but their numbers have been increasing in recent years,” Anja Semmele of the Brandenburg hunting association told Reuters. “Our region is something of a paradise for wild boar, with a mix of forests and farming.”
“They run very quickly and hunters need a good level of marksmanship to hit and kill the animal humanely.”
Reuters data show that Germany’s pork exports to China rose 43% year-over-year in the first seven months of 2019 and was Germany’s single biggest foreign market.
It also reports that Asian countries, including China, regularly impose import bans on pork from regions where ASF has been discovered and German pig farmers could see huge losses, from the drop in exports to the costs that come with trying different methods to fight the disease, the German farmer’s association, DBV says.
“It is difficult to estimate how high the damage will be for German pig farmers,” DBV Secretary General Bernhard Kruesken tells Reuters. “But we estimate at least a triple-digit million euro sum.”
An export ban on German pork would also affect Denmark and the Netherlands as the main suppliers of piglets to Germany.
“The main suppliers of piglets for Germany in the EU are Denmark and the Netherlands. That means there will be effects in the Dutch and Danish markets quite immediately,” Thomas Sanchez, a policy advisor with responsibility for pigmeat at EU farmers group, Copa Cogeca, tells Reuters.
The fence in Brandenburg was built in December and designed to be temporary. Another is being built in Saxony. The German and Polish agriculture ministries are considering creating a fenced corridor on both sides of their border and drastically reducing the wild boar population by relaxing the rules about shooting them, Reuters says.
“We have found no signs that the fence has been broken through by wild boars and no sick boars have been found along the fence,” Gabriel Hesse of Brandenburg’s state health and consumer protection ministry, tells Reuters.
“There are hopes that the fence is effective, but these animals are remarkably strong.”
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