'Your bacon is safe' despite swine fever outbreak in North West

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of SA, says it's safe to eat pork.
Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of SA, says it's safe to eat pork.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

The South African government has detected an outbreak of African swine fever on a farm in the North West, but consumers of pork do not need to be concerned.

This is an assessment of Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of SA.

Reuters on Wednesday quoted the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as saying the outbreak killed 32 out of a herd of 36 pigs on a farm in the Ditsobotla district, with the remaining animals slaughtered. The disease is incurable in pigs but harmless to humans. It has spread across China since last year, causing major losses there.

Sihlobo said on his blog that he had confirmed the North West report with the CEO of the South African Pork Producers' Organisation, Johann Kotze, "who has clarified that these were specifically wild pigs".

"The local authorities are collecting evidence."

Sihlobo said, based on assurances he had received from Kotze, there was no imminent threat to the South African pork industry, nor consumers.

"So, go on folks and eat your bacon, ribs, pork belly sandwiches ... The outbreak was detected early, with good response from the government veterinarians who are now hard at work to ensure that it is controlled."

He said African swine fever was a serious disease. A recent report from the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations suggests that China has culled more than  1-million pigs in an effort to control its spread since August 3 2018.

"Fortunately, South Africa is nowhere close to what we are witnessing in China. I am hoping that the outbreak is controlled successfully," said Sihlobo. 

Fall armyworm

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has also issued an advisory about the detection of fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) in the Western Cape.

"Larvae of the fall armyworm (FAW) were detected for the first time in late March 2019 on sweetcorn in the Western Cape, near the Clanwilliam area. The FAW moths were detected in several areas in the Western Cape between June and August in 2018," the notice stated.

FAW is a quarantine pest. It attacks maize, sweetcorn and sorghum in SA, but it may feed on other crops in the vicinity if maize plants or its primary food source is not available.

The department said FAW is currently present in all the provinces in SA and the level of FAW infestation varies according to climate and host availability.

"Farmers and community members are advised to take precautionary control measures such as scouting and trapping to ensure early detection and effective control of FAW. It is best to apply agricultural chemicals while the caterpillars are smaller than 1cm long."