The discovery of African swine fever in northern Italy has pork producers fearing major damage to a major agricultural export
ROME – The discovery of African swine fever in northern Italy has Italian pork producers fearing major damage to an important agricultural export.
Earlier this month, a case of the virus, which can be fatal to pigs but does not harm humans, was detected in a wild boar in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy.
Wild boars, whose meat is used in pasta sauces, are a popular prey for hunters in Italy. The country’s health and agriculture ministers have temporarily banned hunting in parts of Liguria and Piedmont in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading to more animals.
Italian farm lobby Confagricoltura says China, Japan, Taiwan and Kuwait have already suspended imports of Italian pork and neighboring Switzerland has also imposed some restrictions.
Italian exports of pork and pork products amount to 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) a year, about a third of which comes from sales outside the European Union.
Other regions in northern Italy are pushing for a crackdown on wild boars outside the disaster area to save their own pork production.
“African swine fever can strike pigs and wild boars, it is highly contagious, often fatal,” said Gianluca Barbacovi, the head of agricultural lobby Coldiretti in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region, on Saturday.
The European Food Safety Authority indicates that healthy pigs and wild boars are usually infected, among other things, through contact with infected animals, including free-range pigs and wild boars.
Lobbyists for the prestigious Italian production of Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham) have been quick to allay consumer fears, saying the aging process of its meat renders the African swine fever virus harmless.