Germany finds one new swine fever case in wild boar

HAMBURG (Reuters) - One more case of African swine fever (ASF) has been found in the wild boar population in Brandenburg, the eastern German region’s government said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Customers wearing face masks buy pork meat at a wholesale market for agricultural products, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

That brings the number of confirmed cases to 70 since the first on Sept. 10. All were in wild animals in the region and no farm pigs have been affected so far.

China and other pork buyers banned imports of German pork after the first case was confirmed, causing Chinese pork prices to surge and German prices to fall.

ASF is not dangerous to humans but it is fatal to pigs and a massive outbreak in China and elsewhere in Asia led to massive changes to the pork trade.

German pig farmers are currently suffering a double blow from lower prices after ASF and reduced slaughterhouse capacity due to the coronavirus crisis, German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said separately in a speech at a German farming conference.

That is leading to problems with unsold pigs having to remain on German farms, Kloeckner said. However, she added that state aid such as subsidised storage of unsold pork was currently not justified.

Several German slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants became COVID-19 hotspots this summer, sparking a major industry shake-up with new health measures leading to reduced capacity.

Clear regulations must be developed in cooperation with neutral experts to enable slaughterhouses and meatpakers to meet increased COVID-19 standards and work at high capacity, Kloeckner said.

“The goal must be to again enable more slaughtering but simultaneously to guarantee the safety of workers,” she said.

Kloeckner said the fight against ASF in Germany will be a “long distance run” but the country is negotiating with China and other Asian countries about lifting import bans.

Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Kirsten Donovan