What would we do? Pork Council collaborates on 'what if' scenario for ASF

The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) met in Ottawa for three days last week to tackle industry challenges, including the advent of African swine fever (ASF) overseas.

Gary Stordy, director of government and corporate affairs for the CPC, says the meeting was very productive and much needed, especially in light of ASF. “The industry is not taking the situation lightly. We’ve been out working on this file and it’s been a priority for some time now — well over 12 months,” he says.

The latest outbreak of ASF was first detected on August 3, 2018 in China. Since then, it has spread rapidly throughout Asia, and has also been detected in parts of the Europe Union. Canada has been proactive in creating a plan to prevent the spread of the deadly virus to North America with plans in place in tandem with those in the United States.

“This is an industry killing disease. It will put producers out of business if we do not deal with this properly,” he adds. “We are looking for measures to make sure that it doesn’t come in (to Canada) and heightened awareness to preventative measures when it comes to biosecurity.”

Stordy says there was a lot of group collaboration when it came to possible responses to an ASF finding in Canada. The CPC gave those in attendance different scenarios with different timelines such as first day, two weeks in, one month in, etc., to work on. The groups had to come up with what was needed from various organizations should the virus makes its way here. (story continues below player)

Halted exports, animal care and containment, disposal of  infected animals, and producers getting the correct information were all taken into account when it came to points to focus on.

“(Should ASF make it to North America) this is going to be extremely stressful for all the participants, and the most affected are, frankly, the producers,” he says. It’s clear that in such an emergency situation, farmers will be the ones who face not only production hardship, but financial hardship, as well.

There are also animal welfare considerations, as well, plus emotional and mental stress on farmers. “These are the serious, realistic implications that could happen if Canada were to ever have ASF,” Stordy says, adding that it’s so important that the industry anticipate what’s needed, how to deal with it, and have a plan in place, just in case.

It was also announced at the meeting that a small group from the CPC went to China to discuss the current trade disruption, and ASF. He says they met with Chinese government officials along with those who work in hog industry, including producers and traders. The key message was to show China that Canada has pork available to export as that country deals with the deadly outbreak. Stordy adds it was quite surprising to hear about the various proteins — such as donkey — Chinese consumers are eating as their pork has become scarce in some places.

On the topic of trade, the CPC noted Japan has been a huge success as they celebrated 10 years of opening a marketing office in Japan by Canadian Pork International. According to a news release, since the establishment of the Japanese office, Canadian pork exports to Japan have increased from $865,242,644 in 2009 to $1,275,348,152 in 2018.

“It’s important, we have a physical presence on the ground in Japan, dealing with customers comments, working to promote Canadian pork in the market with clients and the general public,” he says.

Already looking at this year’s numbers, Stordy says they’re going to be in-line to be the largest supplier of chilled pork in the Japanese market having well over 50 per cent of the market share.

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