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Pig virus disrupts U.S. trade more than expected: USDA official

By Tom Polansek

DES MOINES Iowa (Reuters) - The impact of a deadly pig virus on U.S. trade is mounting, with 11 countries limiting imports of live hogs and one banning pork imports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's top veterinarian said on Wednesday.

El Salvador, Guatemala and South Africa have banned imports of live U.S. hogs following the discovery of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PEDv) in the United States last year, John Clifford, the USDA's chief veterinary officer, said.

China, Japan, the European Union and Russia have restricted hog imports, while four other countries have imposed unofficial limitations, he said.

Uzbekistan has banned imports of U.S. pork, while Costa Rica has banned imports of pork casings.

"This is beginning to have a much greater impact than what any of us initially thought that it would," Clifford said about PEDv at an industry gathering in Des Moines, Iowa.

PEDv has wiped out an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. pig population in the past year. The USDA has tried to calm concerns among trading partners about the virus, which the agency says does not threaten humans or food safety.

The EU last month said it would require any pig blood products imported for use in pig feed be kept in storage for six weeks at room temperature to ensure any PEDv is deactivated.

"We told them that's way too long for the product to need to sit," Clifford said.

The United States last year exported about $6 billion worth of pork and $30.5 million worth of live hogs.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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