BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The spread of African swine fever in Bulgaria, which threatens the Balkan country’s pig breeding industry is worrying, an EU Commission spokeswoman said on Thursday.
One of the European Union’s poorest states, Bulgaria has reported more than 30 outbreaks of the disease – which is incurable in pigs but harmless to humans – at industrial or backyard farms. Around 130,000 pigs have already been culled.
Bulgaria’s deputy agriculture minister said on Wednesday that the country has failed to contain the spread of African swine fever, while experts say Bulgaria could lose its entire 600,000 pig breeding industry.
The situation “is very worrying,” EU Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told a media briefing, urging action against what she called a “catastrophic animal disease.”
Industry officials in Bulgaria fear the outbreak could cause damages of up to 2 billion levs ($1.15 billion).
An outbreak of African swine fever in China is forecast by experts to wipe out about a third of Chinese pork production this year, or 18 million tonnes, twice the amount of pork exported worldwide every year.
There have also been outbreaks of the disease in other parts of Asia and eastern Europe.
The EU’s head of health and food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, offered EU support to Bulgaria when he met the country’s agriculture minister Desislava Taneva on Tuesday.
Bulgaria will receive 2.9 million euros ($3.25 million) in EU financial aid to combat the disease, Taneva said after meeting Andriukaitis.
(This version of the story corrects para 3 to clarify that experts say Bulgaria could lose its 600,000 pig breeding industry)
Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Francesco Guarascio and Susan Fenton