German farmers urge China to avoid ban on pork imports

HAMBURG (Reuters) - German farmers on Friday urged China to avoid a nationwide ban on imports of German pork a day after African swine fever (ASF) was found in a wild boar in Brandenburg.

FILE PHOTO: A blue wildlife fence along the border between eastern Germany and western Poland is pictured after a case of African swine fever (ASF) in a wild boar was confirmed in Guben, Germany, September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Martin Schlicht/File Photo

South Korea, the second largest non-EU buyer of German pigmeat behind China, immediately banned German pork imports after ASF was discovered in a dead wild boar on Thursday.

Joachim Rukwied, president of Germany’s DBV farming association, said pig farmers are concerned that “swine fever will mean the Asian market falls apart”.

Germany, Europe’s biggest pork producer, sold $1.2 billion worth of German pigmeat to China last year.

“I hope that the Chinese market remains open,” Rukwied said on German television channel ARD.

“I hope that they will take a similar course of action as in the European Union, with a regionalised answer in which only meat from the affected region cannot be exported elsewhere in the EU.”

German domestic demand is not large enough for the country’s pig farming sector, he said.

“We are greatly concerned, we fear market pressure.”

Asia is important for sale of parts of pigs such as ears and tails which find no markets in Europe, he noted.

German pork exports to China are not feasible in the short term and are expected to come to a stop, Germany’s ISN pig breeders’ association said.

“Veterinary certificates for pigmeat exports to China can no longer have the words ‘ASF free’ for Germany so in reality we fear that exports will no longer be possible,” an ISN spokesman said.

“This will be very painful for pig producer in Germany.”

The German government is pressing for regional import bans from individual areas hit by ASF and not blanket bans on German pork.

A number of cases have been confirmed in recent months in wild boars in western Poland, with one only about 10 km from the German border.

Cases have also been confirmed recently in about 10 other European countries, where wild boars are suspected of spreading the disease.

ASF is not dangerous to humans but fatal to pigs. It has hit China, the world’s top pork producer, hard.

Rabobank analysts estimated that ASF and culling reduced China’s hog herd, the world’s largest, by 50% in the first eight months of 2019.

The disease originated in Africa before spreading to Europe and Asia. It has killed hundreds of million pigs, while reshaping global meat and feed markets.

German pig prices fell by almost 14% to 1.27 euros per kilo on Friday, traders said.

“The big question is where can we sell pork if China does not buy?” said one trader.

Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Jason Neely