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Farm in South Chungcheong ASF negative

Impact could have been devastating on largest pig raising area
Sept 30,2019
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The government sighed a breath of relief after tests from a pig farm in South Chungcheong that was suspected of having contracted African swine fever (ASF) came back negative.

If the tests were positive, it would have raised the number of farms dealing with the virus, which is fatal to pigs but harmless to humans, to 10 since the first outbreak was reported nearly two weeks ago.

The latest tests were especially concerning as unlike previous cases, the impact of positive results would have had a much greater impact. Not only would it have been the first case outside of Gyeonggi, which indicates that the government failed to contain the spread of the virus, but also South Chungcheong is the country’s largest pig raising province, accounting for 21 percent of pigs raised in the country.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Sunday, early in the morning, a farm in Hongseong County reported the death of 19 pigs, prompting the investigation. Ten hours later the government at 6:50 p.m. confirmed that the farm had not contracted the virus.

The suspected farm alone raises 4,000 pigs and has 12 other farms within its 500-meter radius (1,640-foot), which raise a total of about 34,000 pigs. There are an additional 62 farms in the 3-kilometer (1.24-mile) radius of the farm, raising 86,000 pigs.

South Chungcheong currently raises 2.4 million of the pigs in the country, or 21.4 percent of the total 11.3 million.

A confirmed case in South Chungcheong could further drive up the already increasing pork prices.

As of Sunday, the national average wholesale price of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of pork was 5,173 won ($4.30). That’s a 13 percent increase compared to 4,588 won on Sept. 16, the day before the government confirmed the first outbreak. The wholesale price rose sharply in the greater Seoul area, surging 38 percent from 4,289 won to 5,907 won during the same period.

According to major discount stores, pork consumption has fallen 9 percent last week compared to the previous week while sales of beef and chicken rose more than 20 percent.

The government is trying to downplay the impact of ASF as the Korea Rural Economic Institute on Sunday noted that the number of pigs that have been or are scheduled to be culled only accounts for 1 percent of the pigs being raised.

The Agriculture Ministry said the agricultural cooperative Nonghyup will release its stockpiles as a means to stabilize pork prices if they continue to rise.

Since the first case of ASF was confirmed by the government on Sept. 17, 95,089 pigs have either been culled or are scheduled to be culled.

Until now the government has been mainly focusing on the northern Gyeonggi region where the infected farms are located. Out of the previous nine farms, five are located on Ganghwa Island off the west coast of Incheon.

Among the total 43 pig farms in Incheon, 81 percent or 35 farms are located on Ganghwa.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on Sunday in a meeting with the Korean Coast Guard raised the need to further increase quarantine efforts on the west coast to prevent the swine disease from entering the country from neighboring China.

“While we have increased quarantine efforts at airports and ports close to neighboring countries where swine fever has broken out, we have to be open to the possibility of the virus traveling via the sea,” Lee said.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]