Reuters – A devastating outbreak of African swine fever that has killed millions of pigs in China is changing attitudes in a country where farm hygiene has often been seen as lax by international standards.
From farms to feed mills to transport, people involved in the pork industry say biosecurity has been tightened, with sales of disinfectants and truck cleaning washes booming as farmers try to fend off the virus.
Farm owner Ma, whose 4,000 herd pig farm was visited by Reuters last year, says she is disinfecting inside and outside pig barns every other day, instead of once or twice a week.
She has also invested in her own truck for delivering pigs to the slaughterhouse and bringing in feed supplies to try to prevent contamination.
“We don’t let other trucks come in. It’s safer to have your own truck,” Ma told Reuters by phone, adding that nobody is allowed to visit in case they bring in the virus.
The change in mindset comes as the disease – which is not harmful to people but kills almost all pigs it infects – has reached every province of the country. There is no cure and, importantly in changing long-term habits, no vaccine.
Official June data released in mid-July showed China’s pig herd — the world’s largest at over 400 million head a year ago — has since shrunk by more than a quarter, although some industry insiders say the numbers may be far higher.
Standards of cleanliness on farms, many of which are small-scale, vary widely, say industry participants, while trucks that transport pigs, feed and other supplies are often not properly cleaned and disinfected between trips.
African swine fever, which spreads through blood, faeces, and other fluids, can last for months on farm surfaces or equipment that has not been properly cleaned.
“We see some significant step-ups in biosecurity measures. People are now recognizing that something needs to be done,” said Matthias Arnold, an executive at the Material Protection Products unit of German chemicals firm Lanxess, which sells a popular disinfectant.
Sales of gluteraldehyde, a chemical proven to kill the virus, are up three or four times since last year, said Pan Yunping, general sales manager at Jiangsu Kangbat Biotechnology Engineering Co Ltd in China’s eastern Jiangsu province.
Demand for Belgian firm CID Lines’ Cid20, which also contains aldehyde, has more than doubled from last year, and the firm is unable to meet demand, said Niu Yufeng, China business development manager.