Pork producers fear significant damage to a major agricultural export from the discovery of African swine fever in northern Italy
Rome – The discovery of African swine fever in northern Italy threatens significant damage to a large agricultural export to Italian pork producers.
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 northwestern Italy’s Piedmont region.
Wild boars, whose meat is used in pasta sauce, 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 to try to stem the spread of the virus 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.
Italy’s exports of pork and pork products are 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) annually, of which about a third comes from sales outside the European Union.
Other regions in Italy’s north are pressing for action on wild boar outside the stricken region to protect their own pork production.
“African swine fever can kill pigs and pigs, it is highly contagious, often fatal,” Gianluca Barbacovi, head of the farm lobby Coldiretti in Italy’s Trentino Alto Adige region, said on Saturday.
The European Food Safety Authority says that healthy pigs and pigs usually become infected through contact with animals infected by other means, including free-living pigs and wild boars.
Lobbyists at Italy’s iconic Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham) production have been quick to assuage any fears from consumers, saying the aging process of its meat renders the African swine fever virus harmless.