Pigs culled after fever alert

Pork supplies and prices should remain stable although authorities had to cull about 100 pigs at a Sheung Shui slaughterhouse after 32 of them were diagnosed with swine fever from a pig farm in Ta Kwu Ling, an industry representative says.

But the discovery of swine fever is expected to worry butchers as abattoirs hit by the infection must cull all pigs and undergo full disinfection to eliminate the pathogen, which may take up to two years.

The Fisheries and Conservation Department announced on Saturday that it found the 32 pigs on a licensed farm at Ta Kwu Ling, Sheung Shui, which tested positive for the African swine fever.

Lam Wing-yuen, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Livestock Industry Association, said yesterday the industry was shocked by the news.

"It should not pose great threats to people in terms of food safety, but it would hinder operations of pig farms," he said.

"Despite the pig farm being a minor farm, all pigs on the farm will have to be culled, and it could take more than two years for the farm to resume normal operation." However, Lam found the department's decision to stop five pig farms within three kilometers of the involved farm from selling pork for 10 days to be appropriate, adding that the incubation period for swine fever virus lasts for a week.

Lam said there was only a slim chance that pork contaminated with the swine fever virus would get into the market, as local farms have enhanced disinfection since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.

Pigs in Hong Kong are slaughtered within 24 hours of being sent to an abattoir, since the city saw pigs infected with African swine fever in May 2019.

Pig farmers must also adopt proper biosecurity measures, including vehicle and personnel control in and out of farms.

After the department announced it found pigs on the farm in Sheung Shui with African swine fever, all 100 pigs on the farm will be culled fout of an abundance of caution.

The department also inspected five pig farms within three kilometers of the involved farm and found no abnormalities in the health of those pigs.