By Michael Hirtzer and Dominic Carey
Massive hog culling in the Dominican Republic after the outbreak of a deadly swine disease has led the country to stock up on U.S. pork.
Exporters last week sold a record amount of the meat to the island nation, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed Thursday. That’s after African swine fever was detected in hogs there in late July, in the first outbreak in the Americas in four decades.
The Caribbean nation may have to slaughter half a million pigs to prevent the virus from totally leveling the herd.
Imports can blunt the impact of supply shortfalls. The U.S. said exporters sold 3,500 metric tons of pork to the Dominican Republic. That’s the most in the agency’s records dating back to 1999, and places it alongside traditional top buyers Mexico and Japan.
Steve Meyer, economist at Partners For Production Agriculture based in Ames, Iowa, said the Dominican Republic also boosted pork imports during a previous swine fever outbreak in the late 1970s.
“Exporting pork to there would be easier now as more companies are set up” to do it, he said in an email.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials were stepping up efforts to keep the deadly disease out of the U.S., including forming a “protection zone” around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The virus spreads from hog to hog but can also be transported in animal feed, by humans, or in contaminated meat. Officials rely in part on beagles trained to identify pork in passengers’ luggage at airports to prevent its spread.