Countries block Swedish pork over swine fever outbreak

STOCKHOLM, Sept 11, 2023 (AFP) – Several countries have blocked imports of Swedish pork after a recent outbreak of African swine fever in wild boars in the Scandinavian country, industry officials said Monday.

Armenia, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Ukraine have halted Swedish pork imports even though the disease has only been detected in wild boars at this stage, the Swedish Meat Industry Association told AFP.

“This meat poses no danger… I think it’s unreasonable, but this is standard procedure for when African swine flu is detected,” managing director Magnus Darth told AFP.

Seven cases of the disease have been detected in dead wild boars since September 6 near Fagersta, some 145 kilometres (90 miles) northwest of Stockholm.

The illness does not affect humans but is highly contagious and fatal for pigs and their wild relatives, and an outbreak is potentially devastating for the pork industry, experts say.

A 2018 outbreak in China — the world’s largest pork producer — caused millions of pigs to be slaughtered to stop the spread.

Swedish authorities have blocked public access to forest and wildlife areas in a 1,000-square-kilometre (386-square-mile) swathe around the zone where the infected boars were found.

It is not yet known how the infection came to Sweden, with the closest known cases found in Germany, Poland and the Baltic states.

“It is a long-distance jump from the nearest infected area in Europe and we therefore assume that it has been introduced through human activity and not wild boar,” Sweden’s National Veterinary Institute (SVA) said in a statement.

Neighbouring Denmark, a large pork manufacturer whose exports account for almost half of Danish agricultural exports, has said it believes the risk is low that African swine fever will spread to the country.

Sweden exports around 30,000 tonnes of pig meat each year, with about half going to EU countries.

The import stop is expected to lead a loss of income of 50 million kronor ($4.5 million) per year, for an industry with annual revenue of around 30 billion kronor, Darth said.