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From Preventive Measures to Trade Impact, U.S.-China Symposium Examines African Swine Fever

Amid continued outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) in China and Europe, U.S., Chinese and European pork industry leaders and experts recently gathered in Beijing for the seventh edition of the U.S.-China Swine Industry Symposium. The annual symposium was launched in 2012 and is co-organized by USMEF, the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Soybean Export Council along with the China Animal Agriculture Association, the China Meat Association and the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import/Export of Native Produce and Agricultural Products.

Minnesota pork producer Randy Spronk, a member of the USMEF Executive Committee, discusses on-farm biosecurity at the U.S.-China Swine Industry Symposium in Beijing

Minnesota pork producer Randy Spronk, a member of the USMEF Executive Committee, discusses on-farm biosecurity at the U.S.-China Swine Industry Symposium in Beijing

Symposium speakers shared experiences in animal disease control on the farm and at the national level with more than 150 industry representatives in attendance. They also discussed how animal disease outbreaks have become important drivers of international meat and grain trade patterns. Conference participants came to quick agreement that increasing connectivity means a significant disease problem in one country can quickly become an issue for pork producers across the globe.

U.S. speakers included Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minnesota, who serves on the USMEF Executive Committee and chairs the USMEF Pork and Allied Industries Committee. Spronk explained the biosecurity measures used at Spronk Brothers III LLP, the farrow-to-finish operation in which he is the managing partner.

“I shared with the audience the experience we have in the United States, starting with pseudorabies back in the 1980s, through PRRS and PEDV, and how our basic on-farm biosecurity has changed and evolved,” Spronk said. “Whether it’s due to trucks moving or personnel moving, we need effective processes and procedures that are utilized to stop disease.”

One example he cited is Spronk Brothers’ use of separate wash bays for trailers hauling sows, feeder pigs and butcher hogs.

“Through overarching design and sound on-farm practices, you can sometimes prevent the spread of disease,” Spronk said. “There was a movement in China, even before ASF, to shift production from backyards to modern swine facilities. Because of ASF, I think there is more of an effort in China to reduce movement of live pigs and place hogs in slaughterhouses within provinces. There’s been some imbalance between where pigs are raised and where they are slaughtered, and they’re attempting to correct that.”

USMEF Economist Erin Borror gave a presentation on the global trade impact of ASF. She noted that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) maintains clear guidelines for trade in meat products from disease-affected countries, but these guidelines are not always adopted by trading partners. For example, some importing countries follow OIE guidance by suspending imports only from regions affected by ASF, provided that the exporting country has an effective regionalization plan in place that is recognized by the importing country. But in other cases, importing countries ban pork from an entire nation upon confirmation of ASF.

 USMEF Economist Erin Borror gives a presentation on the global trade impact of African swine fever

USMEF Economist Erin Borror gives a presentation on the global trade impact of African swine fever

Borror referenced ASF’s impact on Poland’s pork exports as well as lessons from other animal diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease in South America and BSE in the United States. Animal disease will continue to impact production, trade and consumption, and OIE guidelines are meant to help minimize losses by promoting animal health and science-based trade.

Other speakers included Chinese pork producers, who detailed the biosecurity protocols of their farms, and industry experts who explained the Chinese government’s efforts to contain and eradicate ASF. They noted that the disease is likely to have long-term repercussions for China’s pork industry.

Antonio Tavares, a pork producer from Portugal, recounted how ASF was combatted on the Iberian Peninsula, including on his own farm, from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

“It was really interesting to hear about his firsthand experience with ASF and to gather valuable information from one of the few areas of the world that has eliminated the disease,” Spronk said. “From Europe to China to North America, it’s very important that we share information when it comes to something as devastating to the industry as ASF.”

Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, noted that as a well-established annual event, the symposium was an outstanding venue for sharing information on ASF, which was first detected in China in August 2018.

“The Swine Industry Symposium has grown into a very useful platform for discussing issues of common interest to the world’s largest swine industries,” Haggard said. “Animal disease control, with a specific focus on ASF, was a natural topic for this year’s symposium.”