Over 52 000 pigs had been culled in the Eastern Cape since August 22 to combat an outbreak of swine fever, the provincial agriculture department said on Tuesday.

"We are still continuing culling in the hot spots around Butterworth and East London," said the department's Dr Lubabalo Mrwebi.

Mrwebi said 60 percent of the animals culled so far were from the commercial sector, and 40 percent were from communal areas.

"It is a huge setback for the industry. Eastern Cape farmers made a massive contribution to the national production of pork.

"Major farms were culled."

In the communal areas, the culling "is going to accentuate the effect of food insecurity", he said.

The department had to take very serious measures to protect the pig industry and reduce the threat of the spread of the disease.

Control points have been set up on the Eastern Cape's borders with KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, the Northern Cape, Western Cape and "the shared border with the Kingdom of Lesotho".

"We have set up border checkpoints to minimise risk of spreading the disease through pigs and pig products," he said.

"We have restricted the movement of pigs, and no pig may be moved without a Red Cross permit."

Pigs and pig products had to be certified by a veterinarian at source, with proof that where they originated had been tested and proved negative for swine fever.

Trucks were sealed, and when reaching their destinations, the seals had to be broken by veterinary authorities.

Mrwebi said the culling in communal areas was very slow.

"The animals are free-ranging. We have to run after them and catch them."

He said this sector of the pig industry was "relatively under control" but appealed to both sectors to "beef up their bio security".

Mrwebi said this was essential so as "not to introduce the disease from outside".

"We believe that is how the disease got here, through lax bio security on the farms."

The department was likely to have completed its disease control action by November 15, "if there are not any fresh outbreaks".

"If we get leads that pigs are dying, we go and collect them. Pro-actively, we go and collect (pig) blood all over the province."

Mrwebi said he was confident "the current picture is the correct one".

"We have swine fever under control." - Sapa