Vietnam PM calls for country to be on a war footing against African swine fever

By Viet Tuan   June 3, 2019 | 08:04 pm PT
Vietnam PM calls for country to be on a war footing against African swine fever
African swine fever has infected 52 out of 63 cities and provinces in Vietnam by June 3, 2019 after entering the country in February. Photo by AFP.
"Fighting African swine fever is like fighting invaders" should be the motto, says Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

With the incurable pig disease spreading rapidly across the country, he has called for severe penalties for anyone trying to subvert efforts to contain it.

In a communication to central and local government agencies, Phuc called for improving prevention and containment efforts.

The disease has spread to 53 out of 63 cities and provinces and two million pigs have been culled so far.

Da Nang is the latest to join the list, leaving only Ho Chi Minh City of the country’s five major cities still free of the disease. Hanoi, Hai Phong and Can Tho have all been infected.

Phuc said there have been reports that the fund allocated for supporting farmers for culling infected pigs has been corrupted at some localities. When farmers report their sick pigs to the authorities, they will be compensated a certain sum based on the weight of the pigs to have the pigs culled. But some officials have reportedly pocketed part of this fund.

Quarantine activities have been loosened and some farmers have been taking advantage of loopholes and removing the seals on sick pigs to sell their meat, he said.

The PM ordered severe punishment for those found embezzling funds meant to support farmers and those who do not report the exact numbers of pigs to be culled.

Authorities in charge have to make sure infected pigs are detected in time and destroyed as regulated.

African swine fever, which has no cure but does not affect humans, first came to Vietnam in early February and quickly spread across the northern and central regions before reaching the south in early May. Dong Nai, HCMC’s neighbor and the country's largest pig-farming province, is among those affected.

Vietnam has the seventh largest number of pigs in the world, 30 million, and is the sixth largest pork producer. Pig farming provides a livelihood to 2.4 million households, according to official figures.

Pork makes up 70 percent of the average Vietnamese diet. The government said earlier this month it is considering mobilizing the military and police to help combat the outbreak.

The latest data from the World Organization for Animal Health shows 11 countries and territories are suffering from new or ongoing outbreaks of the disease: Belgium, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine in Europe, mainland China, Hong Kong and Vietnam in Asia, and South Africa.

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