Germany on Thursday confirmed the first case of African swine fever, threatening to severely hit the country's key pork market.
In Brandenburg province, a wild boar died of African Swine Fever. Now the authorities are alarmed, both in Germany and abroad.
Shortly after the news about an African Swine Fever case in Brandenburg was reported on Thursday, South Korea banned the import of German pork. The federal government in Berlin hastily implemented some measures that are supposed to curb the spread of the disease.
Germany is Europe's largest producer of pork, with around five million tons produced each year.
African swine fever is deadly among wild boars and domestic pigs, and highly contagious, but not harmful to humans.
Some nations, including China, require imports to be from a country that is free from swine fever.
German pork has recently seen a surge in demand from China after the Asian country's swine fever outbreak meant millions of pigs were slaughtered.
Exports from the Brandenburg region will be restricted, Kloeckner said, but the pork trade with the EU will continue from unaffected regions.
The news adds to the concerns already facing the German pork sector.
The country's largest meat production plant was temporarily closed in June after more than 1,000 workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
African swine fever is not related to swine flu, which killed more than 18,000 people when it spread across the world in 2009, according to the World Health Organization.
Since late 2019, several cases of African swine fever had been detected in western Poland, and some observers believed it was only a matter of time before it crossed the border.
Drastic measures have been taken in recent months in Germany, such as the use of sniffer dogs trained to track down dead boars and drones.
Germany’s Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner confirmed the case. Brandenburg’s Consumer Protection and Health Minister Ursula Nonnenmacher said the dead wild boar had been found on a harvested cornfield in Schenkendöbern, a community located close to the Polish border. It is part of Spree-Neisse county.
Minister Nonnenmacher said the area around the finding place was off-limits to anyone. The local authorities are in the process of implementing a forbidden zone with a radius of 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) that reaches into Poland as well.
Roads within that zone will be open, but nobody is supposed to enter it on foot. Especially the forests should be avoided. The affected county will start setting up signs around the forbidden zone, and inside, on Friday. An electric fence around the finding place, with a 3-kilometer radius (1.86 miles) will supposedly be installed as well, to make sure no infected animals leave the zone. It is unclear how many will have left it beforehand.
A harvest ban within the 15-kilometer zone was imposed on the farmers in the region because wild boars love being in cornfields. Affected farmers would be reimbursed by the federal state of Brandenburg, Ursula Nonnenmacher stated. There is an emergency fund for this purpose.
Brandenburg took even more measures: Animal shows and funfairs in the forbidden zone were banned. The same applies to hunt all kinds of animals. At this stage, the state is still listing all hunters and farmers in the affected region.
Dietmar Woidke, the First Minister of Brandenburg, said the African Swine Fever outbreak was a big challenge. The disease needed to be curbed, he stated. He promised, Brandenburg would support the counties. In case the available funds would not cover everything, the state would jump in, Woidke promised.
The First Minister asked people to keep on eating pork. There was no danger. That way, consumers would help farmers who were in a difficult situation. At this stage, domestic pigs, especially those accommodated in stables, are not affected, according to Brandenburg’s authorities.
Now that South Korea banned imports of German pork, Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner fears China, its largest importer, might follow suit. Klöckner said her ministry was already talking to the Chinese. Last year, Germany exported 2.4 million metric tonnes of pork, out of which 1.9 million tonnes were sent to European Union countries.
The African Swine Fever does not affect humans, but it kills domestic pigs and wild boar within seven to ten days.
Brandenburg state even erected a 120-kilometer (75-mile) long electric fence designed to stop wild boars.
Also, The German Foreign Ministry announced new travel warnings late Wednesday for high-risk Coronavirus regions throughout Europe. In France, existing warnings will be extended to the island Corsica, Ile-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur, and Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
Travelers to Switzerland are warned against visiting the cantons of Geneva and Vaud, while the censure also applies to the Czech capital of Prague and parts of Croatia.
Additionally, the blanket travel warning for around 160 non-European countries will only be extended until the end of September, after which authorities will evaluate each country individually.
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