The United States is working with Canada and Mexico to guard against African swine fever. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says all three countries are trying to keep swine fever from reaching North America.
The highly infectious disease has already affected hog populations in China and parts of Europe.
African swine fever can kill hogs in just two days. China, home to the world’s largest hog population, has reported more than 100 cases of swine fever since last August. Efforts to contain the disease have affected Chinese supplies of pork, the meat from the animal.
Swine fever has spread to China’s neighbor, Vietnam. Cases have been reported in Eastern Europe, and Belgium found the virus in a wild boar.
If it were to reach the United States, swine fever could affect shipments in the $6.5 billion export market for American pork. The U.S. agriculture industry is already feeling the effect of trade disputes with China and Mexico.
Perdue spoke at the Department of Agriculture’s yearly Agricultural Outlook Forum on February 21. Also attending were Canada’s agriculture minister and the Mexican secretary of agriculture.
Perdue said “Sharing the long borders that we do both on the north and south, it’s important that we function together as one.” All the things that go on in the world today will only increase the likelihood of things moving from one nation to another, he added.
The Reuters news agency reports that Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork producer, has increased safety measures at its U.S. farms. In addition, U.S. hog farmers are leaving animal-feed ingredients imported from China in storage in an attempt to keep the disease out.
Since 2013, Smithfield has been a division of WH Group, a Chinese company.
African swine fever was first identified in East Africa in the early 1900s. The disease can spread in many ways, including direct contact between animals, through food and by people infected with the virus. While not harmful to human beings, there is no vaccine for swine fever.
News of the spread of the disease in Asia has affected agricultural markets, as traders consider the possibility of an increase in U.S. pork exports to China.
Robert Johansson is the chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He said chances for increasing pork exports to Asia because of hogs dying from the disease may be overstated.
Johansson predicted that plentiful supply in the United States would push hog prices down 7.5 percent in 2019.
I’m George Grow.
Julie Ingwersen reported this story for the Reuters news agency. George Grow adapted his report for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
function – v. to perform; to work or operate
ingredient – n. a material used with other substances to make something
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