Brussels, June 4, 2019 – Belgium deals well with the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in September 2018. That is the conclusion of European ASF experts. Belgium succeeds in keeping domestic pigs and captive wild pigs free of ASF contamination—thus keeping all its pork virus-free and suitable for consumption and export. Therefore, trade of Belgian pork is free in the European Union. A sketch of Belgium’s approach. ^>
On 13 September 2018, the African swine fever (ASF) virus was confirmed in two wild boars in the Belgian municipality Etalle—in a region where only very few domestic pigs are kept. The FASFC (Belgium’s Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain) demarcated an “infected zone”, in consultation with the European Commission and ministers.
To avoid contamination, the few domestic pigs in this zone were preventively eradicated between 27 September and 3 October 2018. The products of these pigs did not enter the food chain and was not used in the feed industry.
The infected zone is close to Belgium’s neighboring countries France, Germany and The Netherlands. In order to prevent the disease to spread, the four countries joined forces through:
On 17 February 2019 Belgian authorities announced the following results:
Even up to today, all stakeholders (farmers, veterinarians, authorities) stay alert to insure biosecurity.
In pig holdings:
For wild boars:
Jean-François Heymans, Chief Veterinary Officer of the FASFC, concludes: “Belgium has initiated a closer collaboration with the neighboring countries such as daily communication about the situation and technical meetings between wildlife experts of different countries. In addition to the broad, national collaboration, we believe that a total transparency towards our neighboring countries, other EU Member States and Non-EU Members States is essential for the management of ASF in Belgium, Europe and worldwide and to ensure the necessary trust between Belgium and its commercial and other partners. Therefore, the FASFC continues to inform about the situation and the measures taken trough different platforms of communication.”
It may not come as a surprise that Belgium reacted well during the outbreak. Thanks to its extensive monitoring system, the country is all set to tackle unforeseen issues. All +7,000 Belgian pig farms (and their herds) are officially registered in a central database. Tracking is guaranteed by ear tags, enabling full traceability of the origin of the pig and its movements. As ASF concerns, multiple collaboration initiatives were taken beforehand between different concerned partners. In this way, a strong network was created which enabled the FASFC to rapidly detect the disease and rapidly respond to it.
The final goal of the approach—to eradicate ASF—was reached: no domestic swine was infected and the spread of ASF within wild boars was avoided. This resulted in a relatively limited impact in the EU for the export of pork from Belgium. Worldwide, the impact was considerably bigger—especially towards Asia. The share of Belgian export outside the EU to Asia dropped from 79% to 38%, with export volumes dropping to about 50% of the former quantities.
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