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Vietnamese province wants to freeze its pork to fight AFS epidemic

Saturday, May 25, 2019, 09:30 GMT+7
Vietnamese province wants to freeze its pork to fight AFS epidemic
A worker inspects slaughtered pigs inside a slaughterhouse in Dong Nai Province, Vietnam. Photo: A Loc / Tuoi Tre

Mass-slaughtering pigs not yet infected with the African swine fever (AFS) and freezing their meat for cold storage is a solution proposed by authorities in Dong Nai Province of southern Vietnam to stop the disease’ spread.

The highly contagious disease, which is incurable in pigs but harmless to humans, has spread rapidly across neighboring China since August 2018, and has been found in 37 areas in Vietnam since the first case of AFS was reported in February.

In the southern province of Dong Nai, the first AFS outbreaks were reported on April 26 and have now spread to four communes in Trang Bom and Nhon Trach Districts.

With a swine population of over two million, Dong Nai is Ho Chi Minh City’s largest pork supplier, accounting for nearly half of the southern metropolis’ daily pork consumption.

Provincial trade department director Duong Minh Dung said the department had been ordered to coordinate the purchase of healthy live pigs from farmers to have the animals slaughtered and their meat frozen.

The measure is aimed at reducing risks of new AFS outbreaks while providing a backup supply of pork for the final months of 2019, when demands for pork are forecast to increase, Dung said.

Most local pig producing companies have agreed to the proposal on the condition that they receive adequate support from government agencies in realizing the plan, the official added.

One setback of this plan is lack of facilities capable of freezing pork in large quantities and cold-storing them for long periods.

In Vietnam, most pork are slaughtered and sold within the day due to consumers’ preference for “warm” meat over frozen ones.

Pork is sold at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre
Pork is sold at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Insiders also question the economic viability of the plan, as domestic frozen pork might not be able to compete price-wise with imported frozen pork, which is sold for VND26,000-30,000 (US$1.12-1.29) per kilogram on the market.

“In my opinion, the best solution is allowing healthy pigs, whether they are raised in AFS-affected areas or not, to be sold as usual,” Binh said.

Since the first outbreak of AFS in Vietnam was reported on February 1, the disease has spread to 37 provinces and diseases in the Southeast Asian country.

Over 1.6 million infected pigs, equivalent to around 65,000 metric tons or five percent of Vietnam’s total pig population, have been disposed of as of May.

The most recent outbreak was reported in An Giang Province, the third in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam.

Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City are ramping up measures to prevent the disease’s spread as it has hit two neighboring provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong.

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