The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has told the news agency Reuters that China’s struggle to contain the African swine fever virus could take years.

Some analysts have suggested the disease, which is prevalent throughout China and has already spread to Cambodia, Vietnam, Mongolia and, most recently, North Korea, could see 200 million pigs die or be culled this year.

The epizootic has seen China’s pig herd shrink in size by 22% in a year and caused a shortage of pork in the country but Paris-based OIE sees no end in sight.

Speaking to Reuters, its deputy director general Matthew Stone said: “China is going to deal with this African swine fever for many years to come.

“The situation is going to continue to evolve in Asia because we know there is significant contamination of the meat and meat products supply chain and practices such as garbage feeding that may not be appropriately regulated.

“It is an enormous challenge for some of these countries in Asia to transform their farming systems into higher bio-security systems but that’s the imperative.” 

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The disease currently has no cure but Chinese state media said on Friday that China would start working on clinical trials of a vaccine, Reuters reported.

Some food manufacturers operating in the meat sector have recently made public statements on the impact they think the outbreak could have on their businesses.

Last week, US manufacturer Hormel Foods cut its forecasts for annual sales and earnings and said expects to see profit margins and volumes come under further pressure in the second half of the year as input costs rise on the back of the outbreak, which has already prompted the US-based food group to increase prices.

Earlier this month, US meat heavyweight Tyson Foods has said it could benefit from China’s African swine fever woes but also warned there is a risk the disease could reach America.