The only way out of the African swine fever crisis is with vaccines and the rehabilitation of small farms, says expert

So now that all the smallholders are gone…

Small farms cannot survive. In Nakhon Pathom [which is known for its pig industry] the farms, where the pigs were raised in the open air, were wiped out. Now, the only viable pig farmer is a medium, semi-large or large operation that raises pigs in a closed system with relatively good biosecurity. Although limited, there is always a supply of pork. These suppliers are probably large farms.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture blamed the pork shortage on hoarding.

I do not know. The industry had about 20 million pigs per year, of which 18 to 19 million were consumed domestically. Now they say around 4 million pigs have succumbed to the virus, so 14-15 million pigs should be available.

The pig farming community says there are only 1,000 pig farms left.

The 1,000 are large farms that cover about 50% of the supply, whereas there were some 190,000 small farms and about 50% of them have disappeared. Pig farms in the South are still doing well. The virus has spread in the North and West such as Ban Pong district in Ratchaburi, but there is no information available on ASF in the East.

The Livestock Development Department has been very slow and not taking action based on solid academic data.

Has the African Swine Fever situation in Thailand peaked?

If the disease still exists, then we are still in crisis.

How to solve this crisis?

I think large farms can easily survive this because they have closed farming systems that are protected by biosafety and biosecurity standards as well as the help of academics and modern technology.

The question is how the Department of Livestock Development will solve the problem of small farms, because they have not told me. Pigs are raised on a cycle, not based on agricultural seasons like rice. The pig cycle begins with the mother pig. Some farms tried to save the mother, but many failed.

There are three types of entrepreneurs in the pig industry, breeders, those specializing in piglets and those focusing on fattening pigs.

Even if all of them die, they will do their best to preserve the breeder.

Does it take at least a year and a half for a small farm to resurface?

Yes. Some breeders may have a mother pig, which will take about a year to produce a brood. However, if there is an agency that can import pigs and lobby to keep local pork prices low, small farmers will not survive because animal feed is expensive.

The government must maintain feed prices and help small farmers raise pigs in standardized closed systems to ensure stability in the industry.

This epidemic will change the structure of the Thai pork industry. Almost half of the smallholders left the system. They will need to be funded and educated on the new agricultural system, which will take another year and a half to two years. This will guarantee the country’s long-term food security.

If necessary, where will the pork be imported from?

Europe. Thailand has standards against red meat accelerators, which are used in the United States, so the private sector cannot import pork from there. If pork is to be imported, it must come from Europe, which has clear export quotas and protocols. However, this should not affect new pig farmers.

Other countries have not developed vaccines against African swine fever.

There is no vaccine anywhere, including Thailand. Therefore, the vaccine will be an important variable, like the Covid-19 situation.

How long will pork be expensive in Thailand?

Based on China and Vietnam experience, about one year. Although it depends on how quickly we can recover and how quickly the virus can be wiped out in the world without a vaccine.

About Rhonda Lee

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