Chilean pork producers and exporters do not mind big lines of travelers, or if they protest at the airport or at customs, as a result of the SAG’s inspection in search of banned animal or vegetable products. It is that the alarm caused by the outbreak of African swine fever and its rapid progress in Europe and Asia is not something to take lightly, due to the implication it could have.

“it is too great of a risk for the country, and it is not a problem of the Chilean agriculture, because we have to take care of our border at all costs. We will have to put more attention booths and more resources, but the people must be controlled “, is the most listened comment.

Although this plague is not a threat to human health, its entry into the country could cause serious damage to national animal health, this is emphasized by the Agricultural and Livestock Service that for this reason has doubled the control of incoming passengers in search of pork or other products with bone that may carry the virus. And even though it is not yet present in America, the problem is that the virus is quickly transmitted once it appears.

In 2017, Chile produced 490 thousand tons of meat, equivalent to $1,058 million dollars, of which 59% was exported to the world markets, mainly to Asia, therefore, the damage that could be caused by the presence of this disease could be disastrous (see box).

Fast Spread

Although African swine fever is endemic in Africa, this year it has spread to 11 countries in Europe, eight of which are from the European Union (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania), as well as Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia.

It also arrived in Asia and is present in China. Fortunately, in America, there are still no reported cases, addressed the SAG.

“This disease attacks with a high mortality rate, regardless of the type of production; therefore, small breeding hogs and also industrial farms could be affected, which could have devastating consequences for the national pork industry, since the markets to which we export would be lost, “says David Guerra, deputy head of Livestock Protection Agricultural and Livestock Service.

In front of this international contingency, the SAG has reactivated the specific technical committee to handle this issue, just as it happened in the case of avian influenza in 2015, adds Guerra. The idea is to move forward with a joint strategy to prevent, detect in an early stage, and respond appropriately.

“Chile is free of many of the diseases that affect animal production, including African swine fever, which gives us a competitive leverage compared to other producers. This is thanks to the geographical conditions of our country that make it a sanitary island, also to the management of companies regarding their production facilities and the permanent work of the SAG “, highlights Juan Carlos Domínguez, executive president of the Association of Exporters of Meat, ChileCarne, who points out that Chile exports this product to more than 50 countries (see box).

There is no such thing as zero risk

“In spite of the preventive measures that Chile has set in place at the pre-frontier and frontier, the possibility always exists, especially through pork origin products that passengers could bring into the country. That is why, it is important for those who travel to inform themselves about what they can or can not bring into the country and declare all the products of animal origin that they are carrying”, Guerra says.

The need to prevent the entry of any exotic disease, according to the head of livestock protection, is because “there is no such thing as zero risk”. Travelers are the main vehicle for the virus to enter the country, even though there are others.

“As an industry, we are concerned with this situation, given that the disease has advanced a great deal,” says Domínguez.

Another possibility is our wildlife. In this case, wild boars, which are very difficult to control, are transmitters of the virus that lingers in the environment, even in frozen meat. Hence, it is worrisome if the virus appears in Argentina since in the southern border the exchange of wildlife is continuous. The wild boar goes from one place to another, which is what happened in Europe.

“Our fear is more for the entry of meat through border passengers or through agricultural inputs that come from affected countries. They can be meat products or raw materials. For example, the meat industry brings meat from other countries, which may be a risk, minimum one if the products are from countries where products that come from plants are controlled or are from areas free of the disease, “says the CEO of ChileCarne who emphasizes that an informative campaign is required.

There are also inputs of animal origin, which can come from Eastern Europe or Asia, as ingredients for diets and food. Another point of concern is the food, for example, that arrives in the planes that go to landfills. The question is what happens if the food is contaminated and is consumed by an animal.

“The exchange of products with other countries increases by the minute and the border is increasingly more accessible “, summarizes Dominguez.

What remains now is to efficiently manage the plans and inform tourists and Chilean travelers of the situation.

Source: Revista del Campo

Reporter: Arnaldo Guerra Martínez