Sun Dawu’s pigs began dropping dead last year from an unknown virus. Just months later, all 20,000 in one farm had died. Sun claims that of the 20,000 swine, 15,000 were killed by the virus. The other 5,000, however, were destroyed as a precaution. The culprit? African swine fever or ASF.
“It began with a few pigs a day, then it was hundreds,” said Sun, a pig farmer and agricultural entrepreneur from Hebei province, China. “In the end, 800 pigs would die in a single day.”
ASF is currently devastating China’s pork industry, the largest in the world by far. Dutch bank Rabobank, which loans to the global agricultural sector, estimates the country’s pig population could wither by a third in 2019-up to 200 million animals-through a combination of the virus and precautionary actions. To put it in perspective, that’s almost as many pigs as in the US and Europe combined.
The virus is reportedly harmless to humans but deadly to pigs-and, so far, there is no cure or vaccine. Beginning in Africa, outbreaks were recorded in eastern Europe and Russia before it first appeared in China last August. It has since spread to other Asian countries, including Vietnam and Cambodia.