North Korean animal health officials permit pork sales despite ASF ban

North Korean state media has officially confirmed the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) and government officials have placed bans on the sale of pork in the country. However, merchants are continuing to sell pork in some areas.

A Daily NK source in Ryanggang Province reported on June 12 that the market management office ordered the prohibition of pork sales last week. However, reports from various parts of the country suggest that local animal health authorities are permitting the sale of pork.

“Pigs that have been examined by quarantine authorities are still being slaughtered,” he said. “Pork sellers are showing customers that their pork has been certified by the quarantine authorities and is safe to eat.”

There is a strong possibility that many of these “certificates” are counterfeit. While quarantine authorities do in fact issue certificates confirming the safety of pork meat, examining pork for ASF requires significant cost and expertise.

South Korea’s agricultural authorities say that DNA identification is needed to confirm whether pork meat is contaminated with ASF. It is unlikely that the North Korean health authorities can easily conduct these tests given the country’s lack of such technology.

There is also the possibility that local quarantine officials are permitting the sale of pork despite the nationwide ban.

“Quarantine officials seem to have determined that it’s just too difficult to conduct the tests. In any case, they think that eating pork will not have any ill effects on people’s bodies,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province reported.

During outbreaks of avian influenza in North Korea in the past, most residents continued to eat chicken and pork.

Pork prices in Ryanggang Province have remained relatively stable because quarantine officials have officially stated that meat in the area is free from ASF. Pork is currently selling for 12,000 KPW per kilogram.

Many North Koreans in Ryanggang Province remain relatively unconcerned about ASF because there has been no confirmation that the disease has spread to pigs there. Some North Koreans, however, have heard rumors that eating ASF-infected meat can lead to death, so they are avoiding pork.

“Some people raising pigs are worried that the price of pork will fall, so they are taking money from customers in advance,” said the additional source.

“Even merchants selling canned food are worried about future business prospects following the announcement of the ASF outbreak.”

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