African swine fever has been detected for the first time in the Eastern Cape and could lead to a shortage of pork meat.

There is no treatment or vaccine for swine fever, and the transmission of the disease has proven difficult to control. 

SA consumes more pork than it produces which makes the country a net importer of pork meat. The outbreak of the disease could lead to an increase in demand for other protein sources, such as beef, which is likely to push up meat prices. 

In the past three years, outbreaks of the disease occurred in the Free State, North West, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces. The disease is difficult to contain as livestock moves from province to province. Announcing the detection of the disease, agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza said it had not yet been determined whether the outbreak in the Eastern Cape was linked to the previous outbreaks in other provinces.

An outbreak of the disease in Asia in 2019 led to the culling of millions of pigs in that continent.

African swine fever is a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs, and can cause serious production and economic losses. The disease does not affect humans and the consumption of pork is safe, but spreads rapidly among domestic pigs and wild boars through direct contact or exposure to contaminated feed and water.
SA has about 4,000 commercial pork producers mostly situated in Limpopo (24%) and the North West (21%), while the Eastern Cape accounts for 6%. The industry employs about 10,000 people.  

Didiza said the outbreak in the Eastern Cape occurred in a communal setting, which makes movement control and biosecurity between the respective pig herds difficult. Biosecurity measures are aimed at preventing, controlling or managing the spread of diseases. This may include animal movement restrictions and import controls. ​

“Control measures currently in place include that all infected pigs be kept as far as possible from uninfected pigs and be housed alone to avoid contact with other pigs in the area and to limit the spread of the disease,” said Didiza.

She said the area where the outbreak occurred has been quarantined; no pigs are allowed to move into, through or out of the area. Follow-up investigations by provincial veterinary services are under way to determine the extent of the outbreak, the minister said.

Didiza said that the disease does not affect humans and the consumption of pork is safe. However, any meat and products from affected pigs can be a source of infection to other pigs.