South Korea confirms African swine fever in border province

17 Sep 2019 | Tim Worledge

South Korea has started culling pigs after an outbreak of the deadly African swine fever (ASF) was found in a pig farm close to the border with North Korea on Tuesday.

According to a press statement on the website of South Korea’s agriculture ministry, the disease was found in five pigs in a farm at Paju, around 60 kilometres north of the capital Seoul, in the border province of Gyeonggi-do.

North Korea confirmed cases of African swine fever back in June of this year, with its southern neigbour stepping up an already rigorous series of biosecurity measures in response.

Nearly 4,000 pigs have been destroyed as part of the quarantine measures, although the ministry notes that there are no other pig farms within 3 kilometres of the infected facility.

The government has blocked all movement for pig farms, slaughterhouses, feed mills, and associated vehicles nationwide for 48 hours.

Meanwhile the affected province will face an export embargo for a week while inspections take place at 6,300 pig farms.

The government will also cull wild boar populations along the border between the two Koreas.

While the outbreak is in its earliest stages, market sources were uncertain of its potential impact, but South Korea has been a rare bright spot in regional demand in recent months, as other major corn, feed wheat and meal importers have seen the disease sweep through their pig herds.

“It is big news, but we don’t know the impact yet,” one market source said.

South Korea has four major feed makers – Nonghyup Feed Inc (NOFI), Major Feedmill Group (MFG), Korea Feed Association (KFA) and Feed Leaders Committee (FLC) along with an industry association representing smaller players – Korea Corn Processing Industry Association (KOCOPIA).

The five represent a significant portion of South Korea’s corn, feed wheat and soybean meal imports and regularly tender or buy privately to meet their domestic needs.

Any hit on domestic demand from the livestock sector could have profound consequences for demand.

Vietnam has been battling an outbreak of ASF since February this year and feed makers have shut as meal demand suffers and production margins come under sustained pressure.

However, market sources in the country highlighted a drop in meal imports has been cushioned by an increase in corn demand as the country’s poultry and aquaculture industries pick up some of the slack.

The USDA expects South Korea to import 10.5 million mt of corn, 4.1 million mt of wheat, 1.9 million mt of soybean meal and 1.5 million mt of soybeans in 2019.

Many of the country's feed makers have already booked corn deliveries for well into the new year, with the most recent round of buying securing volumes for February 2020 arrivals.

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