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Pig farming under difficult conditions in Europe

The board of directors of the European Pig Producers (EPP) e.V. usually meets three times a year in different countries to inform itself about the current framework conditions for pig farmers on site. Unfortunately, this direct exchange is also a victim of corona this year. To this end, the board members will meet more often in 2020 and exchange information digitally. This week, EPP President Gert van Beek (NL) was able to welcome 12 board members from seven countries to the 82nd EPP Board Meeting. Read how the current situation regarding African Swine Fever (ASF) and Covid-19 is described in the individual countries:

In Finland, according to EPP Vice-President Taru Antikainen, there are about 18,000 Covid-19 cases to date, but there are currently no outbreaks in slaughterhouses, so there are also no delays in the process chain here. The situation is somewhat more critical with regard to wild boar control, which has been expanded as a precautionary measure against ASF and where, among other things, there is close cooperation with Russia. However, a fence at the Finnish-Russian border is not possible due to the topography.

The Netherlands has seen a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, which has also led to a partial lockdown. As slaughterhouses and meat processing plants were also affected, this also has an impact on slaughter figures. According to Frank de Wildt and Rosanne Vos, however, a "pig traffic jam" like in Germany has not yet been observed. In this context, it is important that all slaughterhouse employees are tested before they go on duty.
In the Netherlands as well, more wild boars are currently being observed than ever before, which also leads to the highest shooting figures in years. This is the most important precaution that can currently be taken.

Somewhat more progress has been made in the fight against ASF in Belgium. Peter Vermeire reports that the company is well on the way to reopening important markets in Asia, such as the Philippines, for Belgian pork. Intensive hunting in the outbreak region has succeeded in reducing the population and no positive findings have been recorded for quite some time.
With regard to Covid-19, Belgium is also in the fortunate position that there are no significant outbreaks in the value-added chain, although in Belgium as a whole the numbers have risen sharply, as is also the case in other countries.

Denmark is currently concerned about the Covid 19 cases that have occurred in connection with mink farms. On suspicion that the virus in the animals had mutated and then been transmitted back to humans, all mink farms in Denmark were closed down at short notice and all animals were to be killed. Henrik Refslund Hansen reports that this decision appears to have been taken in the absence of a legal basis and that an injunction has now been issued to stop the proceedings. Currently, the agricultural sector is in complete chaos. Covid-19 is also currently having an impact on pork production in Denmark, with two slaughterhouses currently operating at half capacity and closed for export to China due to positive cases. This leads to considerably delayed slaughtering and the accumulation of animals ready for slaughter in the sties.
As far as ASF is concerned, the Danish side is happy that the fence was built at the German border early and are now close to being "wild boar-free".

Ulrico Feitknecht and Michael Klaffenböck report on the current situation for Switzerland and Austria. Both countries have so far been spared from ASF, and therefore have slightly higher prices compared to countries with ASF in the wild boar population. Nevertheless, both describe the mood as very gloomy, as there is little prospect of improvement.
In Austria, the veterinary authorities appear to be overloaded, as they are increasingly involved in the control of Covid-19 due to their assignment to the Ministry of Health. This is illustrated by the fact that the Chief Veterinary Officer in the country is now the Chairman of the national "Corona Task Force".

Jürgen Winkelmann and Ulrich Pohlschneider describe the tense situation for Germany. The unfortunate combination of Covid-19 outbreaks in large slaughter and meat packing centres in the North-West and the buying stop by important export countries in Asia due to ASF events in Brandenburg and Saxony have led to a "slaughter pig congestion" on an unprecedented scale. The longer the slaughtering capacities remain restricted, the more massive the congestion becomes, which has long since also reached the piglet producers.

EPP President Gert van Beek concluded by saying that the appeal by many to politicians to lift the ban on slaughtering on public holidays and a regulated capacity increase can only be supported.

Sven Häuser, 11 November 2020