Flu from pigs in China could spell opportunity for SA

Source: Phumi Ramalepe, Business Insider SA, 5 July 2020, photo credit: IHA/Daily Sabah

Researchers are worried about a new flu found in pigs in China, with genetic similarities to the virus that caused the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. The virus has been found in pig farmers, but it is still unknown if human-to-human transmission is possible.South African experts say the country is safe from the virus since South Africa does not import swine products from China.Meanwhile, it could spell opportunity for SA pork exports.

If the virus is spread only by pigs, South Africa is in the clear; SA imports pork products largely from Brazil and Australia, and not from China, says agricultural economist Sifiso Ntombela.  

The South African Pork Producer’s Organisation (SAPPO) says it would be close to impossible for the virus to make its way into the South African pork industry given the regulations in place to prevent just such an occurrence.

Meanwhile, South Africa could see new export opportunities open up. China is one of the biggest consumers of swine meat and “the consumer perception on the domestically produced swine in China could reduce drastically,” said Ntombela.

This, coupled with China’s ongoing trade dispute with the US and Australia – which are the largest suppliers of swine products to China – “presents an opportunity for South Africa to become a supply of swine products to China.

“But given these trying times, strengthening biosecurity measures to ensure zero transmission of the virus into South Africa is a primary priority,” said Ntombela.    

SAPPO is one of the organisations actively trying maximise on the potential opportunity. “We would like the opportunity to export pork to China and are currently in the process of applying to Chinese veterinary authorities to give us the “green light”,” said Peter Evans, veterinary liaison officer at SAPPO.
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The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.