A nationwide inspection of pig farms is underway as agriculture officials try to prevent the spread of African swine fever, widely suspected of being linked to the recent drop in supplies and skyrocketing prices of pork.
The move comes after the death of a miniature pet pig in Bangkok after a lab test at Kasetsart University was done on the animal.
Pig supplies have dropped by over 30% this year compared to last year because of an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF). As a result, pork prices are now surging.
Thailand has repeatedly denied there is an outbreak of African swine fever and attributed most farm pig deaths to a viral disease called porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).
Director-general of the Department of Livestock Development, Sorawit Thanito, told the Bangkok Post that the disease has been confirmed in at least 35 countries, including Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia, resulting in enormous losses for the livestock industry.
Humans are not affected by African swine fever, although pigs die from it. There is no vaccine available to protect humans against this disease. Mr Sorawit explained that the only way to control it is to cull animals that are susceptible to it.
The number of outbreaks has been increasing in many places, he said. The disease has caused heavy economic losses to pig farmers despite the fact that it does not spread to people.
Swine Fever in bordering countries
The ultimate measure will be to destroy pigs on farms that are at high risk for an outbreak of African swine fever in order to prevent the outbreak.
To prevent the outbreak, he said, the agricultural department needs close cooperation from all pig farmers. In order to ensure that pigs are safe from the virus, he advised farmers to buy them from reliable sources.
Unusually high prices of pork prompted the Commerce Ministry this week to ban exports of live pigs in an attempt to maintain sufficient live pig populations in the country.
Several farmers’ groups have stated that pig numbers are also declining because many small-scale farmers are leaving the business because of rising feed costs. In order to encourage farmers to raise pigs, the Agriculture Ministry is considering ways to reduce feed costs, possibly through tax measures.
In recent years, African swine fever has swept through Europe and Asia, killing hundreds of millions of pigs, especially in China. It was also speculated that the disease had spread into Thailand because the disease was found in Thailand’s neighbouring countries.
Last week, farmgate pig prices were quoted at around 105 baht per kilogram. According to the Swine Raisers Association of Thailand, prices were 30% higher than a year ago.
The price of pork in Bangkok was around 182.50 baht per kg this week, nearly 29% higher than in January 2021, according to the Commerce Ministry.