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At the national e-conference last week discussing solutions to control and prevent the fever from spreading, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked ministries and relevant authorities to establish local delegations to urge the implementation of solutions to control and prevent the fever. In cities and provinces yet untouched by ASF, the local authorities have to build different contingency plans to effectively prevent the fever, while simultaneously preparing resources, including finances, human resources, and chemicals to control the fever in time. In addition, the local authorities have to prevent the illegal selling and arbitrary disposal of sick and dead pigs and issue strict punishment for violations.
Previously, China is an example in controlling and preventing the disease. According to statistics from the World Organization for Animal Health, from 2017 to February 18, 2019, ASF reached 20 countries. China, as the largest pig farming country, suffered the most losses from the disease.
China has reported 110 outbreaks of the disease in 28 of its provinces and regions since August 2018. However, as of March 3, after applying strict solutions to prevent the transportation of sick and dead pigs to safe places and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sick pigs, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture noted that 90 per cent of the outbreaks has been brought under control.
In the context of outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in Vietnam, the government and local authorities play an important role in controlling and preventing disease from spreading. Besides, pig farming and pork processing companies contribute to dealing with the disease.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc gave drastic directions to farmers and businesses to follow five ‘NOs’, including No dissembling; No trading and transporting sick or dead pigs; No slaughtering and consuming sick or dead pigs; No discarding pig carcasses in the environment; and No eating pork without heat treatment.
However, many businesses do not always walk the talk, with some not following the directions of the government. Unaware of proper disease prevention measures and decrying the waste of materials and animals, some farming households do not cull infected pigs, allowing the disease to spread.
In a fact-finding trip to Lac Son district in the northern province of Hoa Binh to study about the ASF prevention, VIR heard complaints from neighbouring residents about local pig farms. It is found that some farms in Tan My commune did not comply with regulations on the culling and burial of infected pigs before the ASF outbreak.
“I know that the company often hands out sick and dead pigs for free to residents in the commune instead of culling and burying them. Many of these households used the pork to cook and feed their families or process them into spring rolls and sausages for sale,” a man living next to a C.P Vietnam’s pig farm told VIR. “On average, I count that 10 pigs die every single day from various diseases.”
VIR contacted C.P Vietnam’s communication division to question about the case, and just received a feedback from a representative of the company, saying that C.P Vietnam increased inspections at pig farms and isolated new pig flocks from slaughtered pigs.
The company always monitors the pigs’ health every day and creates contingency plans in case of discovering an infected animal. C.P Vietnam’s representative also said that the company is also in close co-operation with veterinary agencies to supervise pigs in farming households and quarantine animals sold. In addition, slaughterhouses will also be strictly monitored.
Although ASF has yet to reach Tan My commune, complaints have been made, and local residents are concerned if the company’s statements and actions will match if disease hits the region.
In another case, Masan Group, one of the largest pig farming and pork processing companies in Vietnam, is trying to do well its mission to prevent the disease.
A representative of Masan told VIR that while the disease lasts, the company will not take pork delivered from unsafe regions. Technical teams disinfect all vehicles entering and leaving Masan’s factories.
The company is in full compliance with the closed manufacturing process from delivering, slaughter, batching, packaging, and storing. Masan’s pork and processed pork products meet the four criteria of traceability, quality, safety, and environment-friendliness.
In addition to the drastic statements of local farms and food processing companies, CJ Vietnam, one of the leading foreign-invested meat processing companies in the country, still kept silent about the spread of ASF in Vietnam when being asked by VIR, and the prevention measures they put in place.
The outbreak of the fever also impacted on pork market. Last year was a rather good year for pig farmers, but in the first months of 2019, ASF has been discovered in more than 200 household businesses across the 10 cities and provinces of Hung Yen, Thai Binh, Thanh Hoa, Ha Nam, Haiphong, Hanoi, Hai Duong, as well as Hoa Binh, Dien Bien, and Thai Nguyen. Over 4,300 pigs have been culled, with more than 300 tonnes of meat destroyed.
This raises hefty safety concerns in the agricultural sector. The spreading of fever is impacting on the operations of pig farming businesses and pork processors, as well as putting pressure on supply and prices. Despite the small scale of his farming operations, farmer Le Van Ke in Tien Lu district, Hung Yen province, has just destroyed 30 mother pigs infected by foot and mouth disease and ASF.
According to a small survey conducted by VIR, although pork sales in big supermarkets and food stores considered safe remained stable, both the demand and price of pork in traditional markets have decreased by about 10-20 per cent.
Hoang Thanh Tu, a pork seller in Hanoi’s Bach Mai street said that the consumption of pork has reduced by 20 per cent after ASF was detected in Vietnamese cities and provinces. “People have bought less pork over the past two weeks, choosing instead beef, chicken or seafood,” said Tu.
Pork, which is a key part of every meal in Vietnam, makes up around 70 per cent of all meat consumed in the market. The decreasing demand will lead to an oversupply situation, negatively affecting prices and the income of farmers.
Telling VIR about food safety and hygiene during ASF, Bui Bich Lien, CEO of Orfarm, the brand specialising in producing and distributing organic products in Japan’s EM technology, said: “There is no vacin and medicine to treat the ASF virus completely but we ourselves can protect from it by strict measures. At our farm in Hoa Binh province, we use effective microorganism (EM) liquid in food and drinking water for animals to increase their natural resistance to infection, cleaning pigery, spraying all the farm, in-and-out vehicles and surrounding area daily. As result our farm is still safe within the infected region.”
For customers, Lien suggests that they should select prestigious stores which can prove the origin of the meat and products processed from pork, as well as show certificates for food safety.
“In our Orfarm store chain, we have stringent standards for food quality, especially pork, and operate with a closed processing circle which was certified by the local authorities and international standards. Quality is our first priority,” said Lien.
In addition to Orfarm, big supermarkets like Big C and VinMart, and retail chains like Soi Bien and Clever Food still promise to provide clean and safe pork from reputable suppliers which has been inspected carefully from farming to slaughter and preservation.