The confirmation of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Belgium stunned the pork industry.

Officials confirmed Sept. 13 that the disease was found in some wild boars in Belgium, marking the first time ASF has been found in a more centralized region in the European Union.

“This is no longer a problem affecting the periphery — Romania, the Baltics or eastern Poland,” said economist Len Steiner and associates in their Daily Livestock Report Sept. 14. “The village where the boars were found is hundreds of miles away from previous findings of the disease. The village in question is surrounded by French and German countryside, and one has to wonder how the disease got there, given the wide German land buffer between Poland and Belgium.”

While Belgium is not a large exporter of pork, the USDA says the EU exported about 6.3 billion pounds last year. That compares to U.S. exports of 5.6 billion pounds.

“Pork production in the EU is not as concentrated as it is in the U.S., but still a few countries account for the bulk of pork production,” Steiner and associates said.

Germany and Spain produce nearly 43 percent of EU pork exports, and also export a large percentage outside of the EU. Germany exports about 8 percent of its pork production outside the EU.

“Given the fact that the disease in wild boars was found in an area that presumably jumps over Germany, the situation is particularly sensitive for the industry there,” Steiner and associates said.

According to the USDA, the top markets for pork from the EU were China, Japan and South Korea.

“While countries within the EU and some other countries accept the principle of regionalization, not all do and that is a major concern,” Steiner and associates said. “Broadly speaking, the principle of regionalization recognizes that outbreak of disease impacts trade in a specified area/region rather than the trade of the entire political boundaries of a country.”

While Belgian exports are small, they said the larger concern is if and when the disease is found in major exporting countries in the EU.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.