Thu, Aug 08, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Bulgaria fails to halt spread of African swine fever

Reuters, SOFIA

Bulgaria has failed to contain the spread of African swine fever, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Yanko Ivanov said yesterday, amid concerns that the Black Sea nation could lose its entire 600,000 pig breeding industry.

Bulgaria has so far detected more than 30 outbreaks of the disease at industrial or backyard farms, and about 130,000 pigs have already been culled.

Experts say that the nation could lose its entire pig breeding industry and have its 600,000 pigs culled, while industry officials fear it could cause damages of up to 2 billion levs (US$1.14 billion).

An outbreak of African swine fever in China is forecast to wipe out about one-third of Chinese pork production this year, or 18 million tonnes, twice the amount of pork exported worldwide every year.

There have also been outbreaks in Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia, North Korea and Laos, and it has already spread across parts of central and eastern Europe.

Last month Sofia announced measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease and protect the pig-breeding industry in Bulgaria, where almost every household in rural areas keeps home-raised pigs.

However, Ivanov said that the government has failed to prevent the spread of the virus, which has already hit more than a dozen districts.

“What we failed to do was reduce the population of wild boar, which, unfortunately, has a fairly dense concentration in the areas with industrial farms,” Ivanov said.

The Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture and Food last month said that forestry enterprises would pay 150 levs for each wild boar killed as the authorities were aiming to reduce significantly the population density in 20km zones around the outbreaks.

“We have also failed with the private backyard farms, which also, in many places, are without any security measures,” Ivanov added.

Last week, 20km sanitary zones around all registered industrial pig farms were set up, with authorities ordering the culling of home-raised pigs in these zones.

However, protests were held in several parts of southern Bulgaria, with hundreds resisting government orders, saying there had been no outbreaks in their regions.

Bulgaria is to receive 2.9 million euros (US$3.24 million) in EU financial aid to combat the disease, the ministry said after a meeting with European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis on Tuesday.

Last month Andriukaitis said he was “deeply disappointed” by the efforts by Bulgarian authorities to tackle the outbreak.

Bulgaria has also requested emergency aid of 11 million euros for actions already carried out at industrial pig farms.

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