Swine fever in wild boar worries the Italian pork industry | Economic news

ROME (AP) — The discovery of African swine fever in northern Italy has Italian pork producers fearing significant economic damage to a major agricultural export and has forced the reduction of official game hunting and gathering seasons prized truffles.

Earlier this month, a case of the virus, which can be fatal to pigs but does not harm humans, was detected in a wild boar in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy.

Wild boars, whose meat is used in pasta sauces, are a popular prey for hunters in Italy.

The country’s health and agriculture ministers have banned hunting and other public access to woods and parks in parts of Liguria and Piedmont in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading to more animals .

To limit the possibility of contact with other possibly infected wild boars, certain parts of these two regions have been declared closed to cyclists and hikers, as well as to fishing and game hunting. Picking truffles is also prohibited. Mushroom picking is also prohibited for the next few months.

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According to Piedmont’s official calendar for truffle hunting, which uses dogs, the season for picking the highly prized white truffles, including those from the Alba region in Piedmont, ends on January 31, so the most of this season had already run its course. .

The picking of some black truffles should be finished in November or December, depending on the type, but other types of black truffles would normally still be picked during the rest of the winter.

Italian farm lobby Confagricoltura says China, Japan, Taiwan and Kuwait have already suspended imports of Italian pork and neighboring Switzerland has also imposed some restrictions.

Italian exports of pork and pork products amount to 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) a year, about a third of which comes from sales outside the European Union.

Other regions in northern Italy are pushing for a crackdown on wild boars outside the disaster area to save their own pork production.

“African swine fever can strike pigs and wild boars, it is highly contagious, often fatal,” said Gianluca Barbacovi, the head of agricultural lobby Coldiretti in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region, on Saturday.

The European Food Safety Authority indicates that healthy pigs and wild boars are usually infected, among other things, through contact with infected animals, including free-range pigs and wild boars.

A proliferation of wild boars has also plagued urban areas, including parts of Rome’s capital in recent years. Wild boars cross the fences that surround the parks on the outskirts of the city and invade the streets to scavenge uncollected trash for food.

Lobbyists for the prestigious Italian production of Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham) have been quick to allay consumer fears, saying the aging process of its meat renders the African swine fever virus harmless.

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