Marketing and trade / Socio-economics

CSF has serious economic consequences wherever it occurs. These are due to direct losses, the cost of prevention and control, and, in the case of outbreaks in countries that export pigs and/or pork, trade bans.

In countries where CSF is endemic outbreaks are relatively rarely characterised by high mortality, clinical disease may be seen only in young pigs that were not previously exposed and the clinical signs may be mild. CSF viruses range from highly virulent to only mildly or moderately virulent. However, studies have indicated that they are relatively stable in terms of pathogenicity and mild disease caused by highly virulent viruses is the result of good immunity on the part of the pigs. If the same virus is introduced into a naïve herd, severe acute disease with high mortality will occur. The main costs in CSF endemic countries are those associated with control and eradication. Since most of the countries where CSF is endemic are developing countries and countries where there is a significant smallholder pig farming sector, the erosive effects of the disease are felt at household level in terms of lower production and consequent loss of income.

The eradication of CSF from industrialized countries with the consequent cessation of vaccination has resulted in large naïve populations of pigs that are highly susceptible to CSF. It is possible that the welfare requirement to produce pigs under more natural conditions has increased the risk of CSF in countries that do not practise vaccination, since the outbreaks that occurred in 2000 in the UK apparently started in outdoor herds. These pigs may be exposed to food that might include the type of pork products in which CSF virus is able to survive for long periods carelessly discarded by picnickers. When CSF outbreaks occur in large commercial piggeries the costs of eradication can be enormous. The loss to producers, even if compensation is available, is devastating, because they will have to start from scratch after losing a herd that may have taken decades to build up in order to achieve the desired genetic composition. In vertically integrated industries the indirect costs to feed factories in terms of loss of sales, as well as to abattoirs, processors and retailers may also be considerable. Consumers often have to pay more for pork because it has to be imported. Most countries with industrialized pig industries are exporters and suffer severe losses in terms of revenues from export. The economy of these industries is such that even a temporary slowing of pork sales can have a significant effect on revenues. During the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 when, in spite of reassurances from national and international organizations, the insistence of the media on calling the illness ‘swine ‘flu’ resulted in a marked drop in pork sales worldwide, the loss to the United States of America pork export industry was $1.3 billion as 27 countries banned pork from the USA. Based on pork export revenue in 2008, this would have been $4.9 billion if a total ban had been imposed, as would likely be the case if a CSF outbreak occurred.

The incursion of CSF into the Eastern Cape in 2005 had marked socio-economic effects because, apart from commercial piggeries that were affected, pig-keeping is traditional in the Eastern Cape and almost every family had a few pigs which were free-ranging scavengers, costing almost nothing to raise and providing a very important source of protein in communities that are very poor. The cost at national level was very high because the eradication operation was logistically difficult and required the use of helicopters to track down the pigs in the hilly terrain, the pig population was much larger than estimates had suggested, and to obtain the cooperation of the owners they were compensated at market price for pigs culled. In spite of this, the operation caused great suffering at household level because payment was often delayed, and in remote areas with few facilities financial compensation may not bring immediate relief when it is paid. In order to prevent a recurrence, the government has laid down stringent requirements for pig-keeping in future that may make it impossible for many of the people to keep pigs, when many are not able to afford cement housing or high quality food for themselves and their families.