African Swine Fever has hit South Africa again, with government confirming cases in the Eastern Cape over the weekend.

This has caused some panic that the pork industry could face a listeriosis-like crisis, but experts believe that while some producers may suffer heavy losses, the supply of pork in the market should remain stable. 

The disease is deadly to pigs – sometimes killing 100% of herds – and is highly contagious. Pigs can die from haemorrhaging within days of contracting the disease, and there is no cure or vaccine. But it is harmless to humans. 

Last year, the disease swept through Asia, and millions of pigs were slaughtered. It has also wreaked havoc in Western Africa, and three years ago, cases were recorded in the Free State, North West, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Because the disease is so contagious, all affected livestock need to be slaughtered immediately.

“Farmers have no choice but to cull their stocks, this will have a significant impact on their farm finance. Furthermore, the industry has to bear the cost of culling and controlling further spread of the disease,” says agricultural economist at FNB Agribusiness, Pertunia Setumo.

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, believes that the county’s pork industry will not be heavily impacted because the outbreak occurred in a communal setting and large pork suppliers remain unaffected.

However, the news of the disease could affect consumer demand as some people are still weary after the listeriosis outbreak which killed more than 200 people between 2017 and 2018.   

“It tends to affect the perception of consumers,” said agricultural economist Dr Sifiso Ntombela.

“You might start seeing people preferring to buy other foods or maybe even going to poultry as a consumption replacement of animal proteins, rather than going for pork and beef. That will have an impact on the demand side,” Ntombela added.

Although the situation is not yet serious, Ntombela says the sporadic outbreaks in different provinces are likely to affect the industry in the long term.