Thailand denies hiding African swine flu as pork prices skyrocket

The authorities have denied that an outbreak of African swine fever is responsible for the pork crunch driving prices up. 

Government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana yesterday rejected opposition claims that the disease – harmless to humans but fatal to pigs – is being kept secret after the pork supply fell by nearly a third.

University veterinarians said they were “deeply concerned” in an open letter published Sunday about a potential swine flu outbreak and urged the government to take action immediately. Thanakorn said livestock authorities were closely monitoring suspected cases and would report any found to the World Organization for Animal Health. 

Since New Year’s Day, pork prices have increased nationwide. At one Bangkok noodle restaurant, the price of crispy pork recently went up THB10 to THB70. The rise in pork prices by upward of 50% in some areas caused the Commerce Ministry last week to temporarily suspend swine exports until early April 

The disease is rampant across Southeast Asia, infecting pigs in all of Thailand’s neighbors: Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. Millions have been culled in response. 

Last week, opposition lawmakers Wisut Chainarun and Sakuna Saranan of the Pheu Thai Party accused the government of concealing the disease. The party plans to lodge a motion to raise the issue in Parliament later this month.

Some livestock and veterinary experts have speculated that the African swine flu is responsible for the pork supply issues. However, agricultural authorities last week repeatedly denied swine flu was to blame, saying many pigs were killed by another disease, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

Not only have pork prices increased, but another common product as well. Effective today, the average price of chicken eggs will increase from THB2.80 to THB3 per egg. Suthasin Amruek, the president of Thailand’s Egg Trader Association, attributed it to the higher cost of chicken feed.

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