A deadly pig disease may have just entered Germany, which if confirmed could spook international buyers and ravage exports from Europe’s biggest hog-producing nation.
A suspected case of African swine fever has been identified in the eastern state of Brandenburg, the Agriculture Ministry said late Wednesday, referring to the virus that kills most infected pigs within 10 days but is not harmful to humans. The possible infection was detected in the corpse of a wild boar found near the Polish border.
The European Union’s top pork producer and a key supplier to China, the largest consumer, has been training dogs to sniff out dead wild boar, stockpiling electric fences along the eastern border and urging drivers not to toss ham-sandwich scraps out the window to prevent the disease from entering the country.
Confirmation of a swine fever outbreak in Germany would deal a further blow to the nation as it struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. A nationwide lockdown in the spring plunged the economy into its worst recession since World War Two and activity isn’t expected to return to pre-crisis levels until the end of next year at the earliest.
As soon as a case is confirmed, even if it’s a wild pig, German pork exports to countries outside the EU would no longer be allowed, while sales to the bloc are still possible under certain conditions, according to the DBV farm lobby.
Further tests are being conducted at Germany’s animal health institute and Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner will provide more information as it becomes available on Thursday, according to the ministry’s statement.
Neighboring Poland has recently seen a rise in cases. According to the latest estimates from the European Commission, the nation has more than 3,000 confirmed infections, mostly in wild boar. The disease can be spread by direct contact between sick and healthy animals, as well as through feeding on garbage containing infected meat and by soft ticks.
“This would be the first confirmed case in Germany, although apparently not in a commercial herd,” said Dennis Smith, a senior account executive at Archer Financial Services. “As a precaution, their exports of pork could be shut down. No one including China would accept pork from Germany until more is known.”
If the case disrupts exports, that could help push up prices in the U.S., which has been exporting record amounts of pork to China after African swine fever decimated the Asian nation’s herd last year.
“This is very friendly, bullish, to U.S. pork prices, if German pork exports are shut down,” Smith said.