15 January 2020
African Swine Fever spreads to Indonesia
virus

Six months ago, here on the Peak Recruitment website, we reported how African Swine Fever was ravaging China. How it was wiping out livestock, putting small farmers livelihoods at risk and placing the country’s economy in a spin. With no sign of a vaccine being found, it was clear in August 2019 that all the Chinese authorities could do was target damage limitation. But the virus has continued to spread and as commentators expected it has spread to neighbouring countries. Originating in Africa, this vicious strain of Swine Flu is slowly making its way across Asia, consuming everything in its path. Now there have been outbreaks in Indonesia and concern is growing about how it can be stopped.

How the virus has spread across Asia

According to statistics released by the Indonesian Agriculture Ministry late last year, 30,000 pigs have already died. At the time the figures were released, it was expected that half the Indonesian pig population would be wiped out by the end of the year. This has proved true. Many countries in Asia have now experienced outbreaks from the virus including Laos, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, Mongolia, South Korea and North Korea. It is believed the spread of African Swine Fever occurs mainly through live transportation or from contaminated feed.

China is the central country where the real crisis began – to the north it spread to Mongolia. To the south of China, Laos and Cambodia have been hit quite badly and then the virus spread out to the surrounding countries mentioned above. Now even Australia is upping its security as the virus is clearly heading further south. It is very robust and spreads very easily. The key to its strength is the fact that it does not need a host to continue to thrive. For instance, it can live in frozen pork products. This reflects how the export and import industry have created a security risk.

How Indonesia is dealing with the problem

To deal with the crisis, Indonesian authorities are isolating infected areas and restricting the distribution of pig meat to other sectors. There is no mandate for farmers to cull livestock. Understandably, other countries have had to take action to prevent further spread of the virus. Malaysia has already banned imports from Indonesia – clearly putting trade and the economy under pressure.

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At the time of writing, the virus has been contained in the area known as North Sumatra in Indonesia. So why are scientists failing to find a vaccine? The African Swine virus has been with us a long time. Before it hit Asia big time, the relatively small outbreaks in Europe and Africa proved to be manageable so there was no urgent need for research into an antidote. Now the virus is spreading like wildfire scientists are racing to find a solution. However, the virus itself is unusually complex which makes progress difficult.

How the virus has affected trade across Asia

Pork prices have subsequently risen during the crisis across Asia. Statistics suggest that wholesale prices in China doubled in 2019. Export and import strategies have had to change to deal with the lack of native resource in China. Consequently, imports from the US have doubled. Due to the shortage of pork, the sale of other meats have been affected as well. If consumers cannot access pork or even afford to buy it, demand rises for other meats. For example, as the demand for chicken rises and supply is strained, so the price for chicken also rises. The small farmer in most Asian countries is also being affected as the hog trade is fundamental to everyday work and lifestyle. All the pressures witnessed on the Chinese economy are expected to be seen in countries in Asia where the virus has taken a foothold.

However, it ought to be noted that In China, forecasts for the future are good. Scientists believe that full recovery will take many years but there is a feeling that the country is getting to grips with the virus through biosecurity measures.

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