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Agriculture

Pig disease confirmed in Poland

Poland has confirmed its first ever cases of African swine fever in domestic pigs, a day after Latvia reacted to similar scares. Imports of Polish pork have already been banned by China, the world's biggest pig breeder.

A disease that could severely disrupt commercial pig farming and pork exports was identified in eastern Poland on Wednesday.

Polish veterinary officials said the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) was detected among five farm pigs in Poland's Bialystok region bordering Belarus.

To safeguard its lucrative pork exporting industry, notably to China, Poland first imposed controls in February when the disease was detected initially among two wild boars.

At the farm in Bialystok, two of the infected animals had died and the other three were put down, Chief Veterinary Officer Marek Pirsztuk said on Wednesday.

Several dozen surrounding farms were put under quarantine. Some 200 more farm pigs might also have to be destroyed, Pirsztuk added.

'Vast losses,' if China reached, says FAO

African swine fever is endemic in parts of Africa and has spread since 2007 through the Balkans, the Caucasus and Russia, according to the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO.)

The agency has warned of "vast losses" if the disease, which is fatal to pigs but harmless to humans, spreads further to China, which is home to half of the world's pig population.

When Poland detected infected wild boar in February, China banned Polish pork. In 2013, China had bought 52,000 tons of it, worth 68 million euros ($92 million).

Russia also slapped its own blanket ban on pork imports from the 28-member European Union, a move Brussels criticized as "disproportionate."

That dispute is currently being handled by the World Trade Organization.

Outbreaks in Latvia and Lithuania

On Tuesday, Latvia declared a state of emergency in a second area of the Baltic EU state. Latvia first detected the disease on June 26 among boar, allegedly from Russia.

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma warned of "major losses" for the nation's farming sector if efforts failed to contain the swine fever.

Another EU Baltic state, Lithuania, ordered a mass cull of wild boar earlier this year, after the disease was detected in animals thought by experts to have come from Belarus.

ipj/jr (AFP, Reuters)

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