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Concern over Vietnam swine fever

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Pigs in a pen at a Kampong Chhnang province farm on November 1, 2017. Heng Chivoan

Concern over Vietnam swine fever

An outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in Vietnam is threatening Cambodia’s domestic pig market, with industry insiders​ concerned that illegally imported pigs could bring the disease to Cambodia.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has announced measures to prevent an outbreak in the Kingdom.

ASF has been detected on three farms in two provinces in northern Vietnam, prompting Vietnamese authorities to slaughter 253 pigs to prevent the virus from spreading, according to the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Health Department.

Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association director Srun Poav said the discovery of ASF has prompted countries to abruptly stop purchasing pigs from Vietnam. But he said pigs would still be illegally imported into Cambodia.

“The association is deeply concerned. [We] are afraid of illegal importing [of both sick and healthy] pigs from Vietnam to Cambodia. The Philippines has already announced the suspension of pork imports and live pigs from Vietnam to prevent the spread of disease to their pigs,” he said.

On average, Cambodia consumes about 5,000 pigs per day, about 20 per cent of which are imported from Vietnam and Thailand.

Poav said because the Kingdom imports so many pigs from Vietnam, without robust controls it is possible the disease will spread to Cambodia.

“Because domestic supply cannot meet market demand, I would like to ask the government to carefully check and control the import of live pigs and pork from Vietnam to Cambodia,” he said.

According to Poav, ASF has not yet been detected in Cambodia, but there is a clear need to take proactive precautions.

He said live pigs cost 10,000 to 10,400 riel per kg ($2.50 to $2.60), which is a good price for farmers having almost doubled compared to last year.

Preventing spread of disease

Chorn Heng, who owns a pig farm in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, said on Thursday that he was extremely concerned. He called on the government to carefully control imports from Vietnam.

“I strongly request the relevant authorities to help check at the border to prevent the import of sick pigs into Cambodia,” he said.

In response to the growing concerns, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on Thursday issued a directive detailing urgent measures to prevent the disease’s spread.

The ministry urged all relevant institutions under its remit, especially those in provinces bordering Vietnam, to implement a series of measures.

Illegal imports of live pigs and pork products from Vietnam must stop immediately, the ministry said. Secondly, all pigs and pork products must have a hygiene certificate from the exporting country. Livestock must also be monitored by animal health and pork hygiene veterinary specialists.

Regular checks should be carried out on local pigs’ health, the directive said, and Cambodian farmers, experts and officials should work closely with their Vietnamese counterparts to exchange information about ASF in order to swiftly and effectively prevent its spread.

The directive also urged experts to educate farmers, villagers and animal health agencies at all levels of pig management.

ASF is not a health risk humans but in pigs it causes hemorrhagic fever with a nearly 100 per cent mortality rate. There is currently no cure nor is there an approved vaccine. Once pigs are infected, the only measure is to cull the affected herds.

China, the world’s leading pork producer and consumer, reported its first case of ASF in August 2018 in Liaoning province. Since then, the disease has spread to the south, leading to the slaughter of 38,000 pigs.

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