Five years after the first cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in Canada, African swine fever (ASF) is making authorities nervous. Although no cases have yet been detected in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and producers are on the look-out.
According to Pork Manitoba General Manager Andrew Dickson, the discovery of the APP would be a disaster for Canadian producers.
“Our exports would stop immediately if we discovered the disease,” he says. “It would be a major disaster for our industry.”
He explained that 70% of Canadian pork and 90% of Manitoba pork are for export.
According to Canada’s Department of Agriculture, Canada’s pork industry contributes $24 billion to the country’s economy and exports worth $4.5 billion.
More than 8,000 farms and 100,000 workers, especially in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, could be affected if the ASF were in Canada.
The disease was detected in Europe in July 2017 and in China in the summer of 2018.
African swine fever is a highly contagious viral disease that affects farmed and wild pigs. The virus causes high mortality rates and can infect flocks. There is no treatment or vaccine.
Take the necessary precautions
Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is not yet worried about the arrival of the disease in Canada, important precautions are being taken.
“Our government is taking the ASM threat to the health of our animals and the Canadian pork industry very seriously. While the APP poses no risk to human health, we know that it could have a devastating impact on farms and those who depend on the hog industry, “says Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay.
In 2017, Manitoba’s largest pork producer, HyLife, was hit hard by the DEP . More than 35,000 pigs had to be slaughtered to prevent spread. In the last five years, almost 100,000 animals have been slaughtered in Manitoba because of DEP.
HyLife President Claude Vielfaure wants to prevent a similar outbreak from happening again, especially since this time exports would be suspended.
“For us it would be a disaster. China buys a lot of our products, “he says.
Mr. Vielfaure also claims to pay particular attention to his imports, which could contaminate the herds.
“We bring in a lot of imported products from China and we work at the national level with the Canadian Pork Council to make sure we import products that are safe,” he says.
The Canadian government says that this disease can enter the country in a number of ways:
- Travelers entering or returning to Canada who do not report meat or products containing meat;
- Travelers who visit farms in APP infected countries or regions and return to visit farms in Canada;
- Fodder and feed ingredients from infected countries;
- Feeding pigs with meat or products containing meat (kitchen garbage, pet food, etc.), an illegal practice in Canada;
- Insufficient measures on the farm to prevent infection.
“The federal government is responsible for ensuring that the disease does not enter Canada,” says Andrew Dickson, who admits, however, that producers also have a role to play.
The Department of Agriculture says a PPP management committee, bringing together federal and provincial government leaders and industry leaders, has been put in place. The committee will review, adopt and implement measures quickly and coordinate efforts to respond quickly to an outbreak in the country.