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New means to combat African swine fever

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Publication date 5.6.2017 9.24 | Published in English on 8.6.2017 at 12.42
Press release

Halting the spread of African swine fever has become the concern of eastern and northern Europe. The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is preparing new conditions concerning the building of fences for outdoor housing of pigs, as well as a subsidy to support their building. Last Friday several EU and European ministers of agriculture and veterinary directors met in Latvia to talk about measures to combat the disease, which is lethal for pigs.

‒ Combating the disease must stay high on the political agenda, says Jari Leppä, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland who attended the meeting.

African swine fever has spread to the Baltic states, Poland, Russia and certain eastern European counties that are not EU members. The threat of the disease spreading to Finland is very real. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry wishes to protect farmed pigs from ASF infections spreading via wild boars by restricting the outdoor housing of pigs. The decree to be given would prohibit outdoor housing, except in premises that are fenced in a way that any contact to wild boars is prevented. In practice this means a fence fortified with an electric fence on both sides, two separate fences, or some other type of sufficiency strong and solid fence. 

The Ministry is also preparing a subsidy to be paid for fences to protect pigs in outdoor housing. Under the decree to be given aid from the Development Fund of Agriculture and Forestry (Makera) could be granted for fencing to allow to continue housing pigs outdoors. Requirements would be set for fences that are eligible for the subsidy.

Mini-pigs kept as pet animals would not be eligible for the subsidy, but they could also be housed outdoors if similar fences are built for them.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry circulated the draft decrees for comment on 16–30 May 2017. Such a short period was necessary due to the urgency of the matter. Based on the feedback received the decrees were amended by imposing even stricter requirements for the fences but allowing outdoor housing of all pigs subject to specific conditions.

In the legislation African swine fever is defined as an animal disease to be combated.  During the current epidemic the animal disease legislation relating to African swine fever has been amended and it has been made easier to hunt wild boars. African swine fever is not transmitted to humans. The disease has never been found in Finland

Ministers discussed cooperation

On Friday 2 June the ministers and veterinary directors of countries threatened by African swine fever met in Latvia to discuss means to combat the disease and share information about the disease situation and measures taken to eradicate the disease and prevent its spreading and to control the wild boar population. The greatest problems are caused by the so-called backyard piggeries where animals may come to contact with wild boars or the feed is not sufficiently protected from them. To prevent environmental contamination it is also important to destroy the carcasses of wild boars that carry the disease safely and as soon as possible.

Those attending the meeting were unanimous with regard to the importance of combating this extremely dangerous disease and exchanging information on this on a regular basis.  Special attention was drawn to the risk of spreading the disease in passenger transport and protection against the disease on farms. On state borders it must be ensured that passengers leaving the country do not carry any products covered by the export ban, such as wild boar meet from an infected area.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä points out that combating the disease requires close collaborative efforts for a long time, including targeted sampling in areas where the disease has been found across the border. Information on any changes in the symptoms or ways of spreading of the disease is also vital.

– In Finland we will do everything possible to prevent the disease, Minister Leppä says.

Inquiries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry:
Risto Lahti, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. +358 50 565 0424
Katri Levonen, Ministerial Adviser, Animal and Plant Health Unit, tel. +358 295 16 2385
(Draft Decree on precautionary measures to prevent the spreading of African swine fever between wild boars and domestic animals)

Esko Juvonen, Senior Adviser, Rural Development Unit, tel. +358 295 16 2271, Jarno Virta, Legal Adviser, Legal Affairs Unit, tel. +358 295 16 2105 (Draft Decree on subsidies to be granted for building fences for outdoor housing of pigs to prevent the spreading of African swine fever)