African Swine Fever Ravages 51 Countries, Grounds Farmers’ Livelihoods

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Like COVID-19, the raging African Swine Fever (ASF) is negatively impacting the livelihoods of farmers in countries of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe.

Disturbingly, with no effective vaccine, the disease is not only impeding animal health and welfare but has detrimental impacts on the livelihoods of farmers.

Deputy Director-General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) for International Standards and Science, Dr Matthew Stone, says “today, 51 countries are affected by African swine fever. Amid the difficult situation posed by COVID-19, ASF continues to spread, intensifying the current health and socioeconomic crises.”

Sadly, many countries that are affected by ASF lack sufficient human, financial or technical resources to rapidly detect, respond and contain animal diseases.

For the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo, “in this globalised world, where diseases can spread rapidly across borders, timely sharing of latest scientific information, international collaboration and notification of ASF are needed to prevent the trans-boundary spread and minimise the impact.”

Yet, pork is the most consumed meat in the world, representing 35.6 percent of global meat consumption.

In recent years, ASF, which may cause up to 100 percent mortality in pigs, has become a major crisis for the pork industry, causing massive losses in pig populations and generating drastic economic consequences.

The OIE and FAO are calling on countries and partners to join forces against this deadly pig disease by adopting the new Initiative for the Global Control of ASF.

Building upon the experience of the long-standing collaboration between the OIE and FAO for the management of animal health-related risks, the joint Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs) developed the Global Initiative with the aim of fostering national, regional, and global partnerships, to strengthen control measures and to minimise the impact of this complex and challenging disease.

The Initiative for the Global Control of ASF aims to: Improve the capability of countries to control (prevent, respond, eradicate) ASF using OIE International Standards and best practices that are based on the latest science; establish an effective coordination and cooperation framework for the global control of ASF; and facilitate business continuity ensuring safe production and trade to protect food systems.

Coordinated actions as part of the Global Initiative should take place alongside maintaining transparency regarding reporting of animal diseases and investing in strong and resilient animal health systems.

The Global Initiative builds on previous regional efforts and follows recommendations of ASF experts from around the world.

It aims to strengthen national Veterinary Services ability to manage risks through the development and implementation of ASF national control programmes, with public and private sectors working in partnership.

Risk communication with the relevant stakeholders will be a crucial element to effectively address risk pathways and high-risk practices.

On a global scale, the sustained spread of ASF poses a threat to food security, economic and rural development.

The disease represents a barrier to the agricultural sector to reach its full potential, generate employment and alleviate poverty, and acts as a disincentive to investment in the pig sector.

Global control of ASF will thus contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, notably Goals 1 (No Poverty) and 2 (Zero Hunger).

Beyond COVID-19, current challenges include the locust invasion in East Africa and Asia, the continued spread of ASF, more frequent extreme climatic events, and trade tensions among major trading powers.

The food system will also need to adapt to evolving diets and consumer preferences and take advantage of digital innovations in agro-food supply chains. Innovation will remain critical in improving the resilience of food systems in the face of multiple challenges.

The fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented uncertainties in global food supply chains, with potential bottlenecks in labour markets, input industries, agriculture production, food processing, transport and logistics, as well as shifts in demand for food and food services.

 In the short term, the economic and social impacts of the pandemic interrupt the generally positive medium-term outlook for global agricultural production and food consumption.

Governments face the challenge to create balanced policies that address immediate needs, such as labour shortages and create durable conditions for the agricultural sector to ‘build back better,’ according to a new report presented earlier by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General, Angel Gurría and FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu.

The joint OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2020-2029 report finds that over the next ten years supply growth is going to outpace demand growth, causing real prices of most commodities to remain at or below their current levels.

Fluctuations in the driving factors of supply and demand could lead to strong price variations around this general path. At the same time, a decrease in disposable incomes in low-income countries and households caused by COVID-19 is expected to depress demand in the early years of this outlook and could further undermine food security.

An expanding global population remains the main driver of demand growth, although the consumption patterns and projected trends vary across countries in line with their level of income and development.

Average per capita food availability is projected to reach about 3,000 kcal and 85 g of protein per day by 2029. Due to the ongoing transition in global diets towards higher consumption of animal products, fats and other foods, the share of staples in the food basket is projected to decline by 2029 for all income groups.

 In particular, consumers in middle-income countries are expected to use their additional income to shift their diets away from staples towards higher-value products.

Meanwhile, environmental and health concerns in high-income countries are expected to support a transition from animal-based protein towards alternative sources of protein.

Open and transparent international markets will be increasingly important for food security, especially in countries where imports account for a large share of their total calorie and protein consumption.

“A well-functioning, predictable international trade system can help ensure global food security and allow producers in exporting countries to thrive”, Gurría said. “Experience has shown that trade restrictions are no recipe for food security.”

Qu said: “We need better policies, more innovation, increased investments and greater inclusiveness to build dynamic, productive and resilient agricultural and food sectors.”

About 85 percent of global crop output growth over the next decade is expected to come from yield improvements resulting from higher input use, investments in production technology and better cultivation practices.

Multiple harvests per year will account for another 10 percent of crop output growth, leaving only 5 percent to cropland expansion.

By 2024, aquaculture production is projected to overtake capture fisheries as the most important source of fish worldwide. Global livestock production is expected to expand by 14 percent, faster than the projected increase in animal numbers.

Feed use will expand in line with aquaculture and livestock production as feed efficiency improvements will be counterbalanced by an increase in feed intensity due to reduced backyard farming.

The Outlook underscores the continuing need to invest in building productive, resilient and sustainable food systems in the face of uncertainties.

Assuming the continuation of current policies and technologies, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are projected to grow by 0.5 percent annually, indicating a reduction in agriculture’s carbon intensity. Livestock will account for 80 percent of this global increase.

Nevertheless, without additional efforts, this slowdown will still fall short of what the agricultural sector could and should do to contribute to the Paris Agreement targets for fighting climate change.

However, the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2020-2029 provides evidence-based inputs to support policymakers in the development of a resilient global food system to address the long-term challenges of food security, climate change, rural livelihoods and global resource use.

The Agricultural Outlook is a collaborative effort of the OECD and FAO, prepared with input from experts in their member governments and specialist commodity organisations. It provides a consensus assessment of the ten-year prospects for agricultural and fish commodity markets at national, regional and global levels.

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