On Tuesday, April 28, a Northern Namibia government veterinary official announced that the region has been hit by an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) which has killed 61 pigs and infected nearly 200 animals.

Josephat Peter, a state veterinarian based in the Omusati region some 516 kilometres north of the capital Windhoek, said the outbreak there was discovered last week. “So far, the disease has killed 61 pigs with close to 200 more reported to have contracted the disease,” Peter said.

ASF is known to be a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs of all ages. It spreads very quickly and kills most pigs that come in contact with it. Thus far, it has proven harmless to humans but it is highly contagious and deadly in pigs, causing diarrhoea, vomiting, coughing, haemorrhages on the skin and severe mental distress.

For now, there is no available treatment or vaccine, the only way to stop the spread of the disease is to depopulate all affected or exposed swine herds and kill potentially affected pigs. ASF cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans and is not a food safety issue.

However, the value of the pig industry worldwide runs into billions of dollars every year but Africa enjoys less than five per cent of this action. China is both the largest producer and net importer of pig products on the planet. In August 2018, an outbreak of ASF nearly killed half of China’s pigs as it was first found there. It has also devastated hog herds across Europe, especially in intensive farms where the opportunities for breeding disease are greater.

Pig farming in Namibia is still very much a family set-up, be it in a remote communal area or on a more commercial scale. The Namibian pig industry is faced with the challenge of fluctuating pork prices. This led to the Meat Board introducing the Pig Protection Scheme at the end of 2012, aimed at promoting and protecting local pig producers. Through the scheme, the Meat Board worked out a formula for pork prices, which fluctuates on a monthly basis.

Statistics show that 55 percent of pork consumption in Namibia is produced locally. Dr Albert Schutte of the Pig Improvement Company (PIC), who regularly visits Namibia to explain the potential of pig production says pig farming could play a huge role in feeding the world on a long-term approach. Pigs are the best and most efficient animals for converting kitchen wastes, garbage, leftover food and other non-conventional feedstuffs into meat.

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