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With entering Myanmar, African swine fever is continuing its spread through South East Asia. In addition, Russian authorities have reported that the virus has been found in frontier cities close to the Chinese border.

Myanmar is the 4th country in South East Asia to have reported ASF, after Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the 8th in the whole of Asia, if Russia, China, North Korea and Mongolia are considered.

Outbreak very close to the Chinese border

The outbreak was reported by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on 14 August. However, it had already occurred on 1 August in a frontier village called Keng Tung in Shan State in Eastern Myanmar. The village is located close to the Chinese border. There were 65 pigs in the village of which 15 were found infected with the virus and twelve had already died. The remaining animals had to be culled.

More outbreak reports likely to follow

News about the finding was already circulating the web last week. An article in The Irrawaddy stated that the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) was doing contagious pig disease control in the area. The article also said that over 2 000 pigs had been culled – considerably more than what was reported to the OIE. It can also indicate that more outbreaks may be reported in Myanmar in the next few days and weeks.

The article mentions pig mortalities further south in Myanmar, near Tachileik for example, which is right on the border with Thailand. So far any link to ASF has not yet been confirmed.

Virus moves into Eastern Russia

The virus has also been confirmed in Eastern Russia, and has been reported in two districts that have had no ASF reports so far: Primorskiy Krai and the Amur region. Until recently these were the only parts of the country that have not had any ASF outbreaks before.

The first outbreak was reported at a backyard farm in Primorskiy Krai roughly 5km from the Russian-Chinese border on 30 July. According to the OIE, this farm had 70 pigs of which 26 had died. The rest of the animals were culled.

A few days later, another ASF outbreak was registered in the Amur region, roughly 700km north-west from the first outbreak, but again close to the Chinese border. According to the OIE, this farm had 180 animals, of which 34 tested positive for ASF. However, Alexander Limaikin, chairperson of the regional council, said there might well have been 700 pigs at the affected farm, which were all culled. In addition, he said, the regional authorities ordered the withdrawal and culling of all pigs from neighbouring backyard farms.

No reports in Eastern Russia since November 2017

It is the first time that ASF has been found in Eastern Russia, east of the Ural, since November 2017. The virus moved eastward during the same year and was even reported as far east as Irkutsk. The last official report of ASF in Asian Russia were reported in November 2017 near Chelyabinsk, a city thousands of kilometres away from the current outbreaks.

It is generally believed that the virus moved from Russia into China, with the virus now appearing to have moved from China back into Russia.

Increasing pressure from ASF epidemic on Russia

Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor issued a statement raising concerns over the increasing pressure from the continuing ASF epidemic in China on the Russian territories.

“Giving the strengthening economic and social ties between China and Russia, the increasing tourist flow, wild boar movement and possible illegal cargo transportation, the risks of the ASF virus penetrating Russian regions from China remains high,” Rosselkhoznadzor warned.

In a separate statement, Rosselkhoznadzor said that it was officially confirmed that the ASF outbreak in Primorsk Krai was caused by infected wild boars which presumably crossed the border. All governors of the Russian regions bordering China were instructed to design and embark on anti-ASF programmes.

Yuri Kovalev, chairperson of the Russian Union of Pork Producers, told the Russian newspaper Agroinvestor that the new outbreaks will not have a huge impact on the Russian pig industry.

Kovalev said that these outbreaks could contribute to backyard farms in the region going bankrupt, adding that there were no risks to big commercial pig complexes in the region.

The new outbreaks could close access for the far eastern pig farms to the Chinese market. Kovalev said that in April 2019 China announced plans to start importing pork from Russia, but it had to determine the safe zones first. As of today, it is hard to predict when the actual supplies of Russian pork to China could really begin, Kovalev concluded.

ASF leads to almost 17% drop in profit

It is not only the regions close to China’s borders that are making headlines. The pressure on China is also on the rise. WH Group stated that profits have declined by 16,9% in the first six months of 2019. News agency Reuters reported that the company’s current earnings is $463 million, compared to $557 million a year ago.

“We anticipate that the greatest challenge in China is the continuously soaring hog prices as a result of growing supply shortages, which will push down our packaged meats margin,” the company said in a statement.

Reuters also said that live pig prices have climbed strongly since mid-June and in some areas, such as populous Guangdong province in the south, they have doubled since April to almost 28 yuan ($3,96)/kg. – Pig Progress