Saturday, December 2, 2023

NZ Pork seeks import ban to head off African Swine Fever 

Neal Wallace
Raft of countries bar imports as highly contagious, fatal disease spreads through Europe.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

THE New Zealand pork industry is seeking a ban on imported pig meat from countries with the fatal pig-killing disease African Swine Fever as it spreads through Europe.

The Swedish Veterinary Institute announced African Swine Fever (ASF) has been found in wild boars, the first case in Sweden.

The United Kingdom’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs warns that ASF is spreading rapidly through the Balkan states with hundreds of cases reported in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania and Serbia.

NZ Pork wants the ban until the Ministry for Primary Industries has assurances that robust biosecurity protocols are in place in nations affected by the disease.

NZ Pork chief executive Brent Kleiss said a number of pork-producing countries, including Australia, have halted Swedish pork imports in the wake of the ASF outbreak, which has already caused the death of millions of pigs worldwide.

“Armenia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Ukraine, as well as Australia, have all now banned pork imports from Sweden,” Kleiss said.

“Without swift action, we can expect to see even more Swedish pork entering the New Zealand market.

“In previous outbreaks, in Belgium and Poland, we saw a sharp rise in pork imports from those countries as other markets closed, but our own border remained open to these products.”

Kleiss said the MPI has previously cited the strong risk assessment conducted on imports and the low risk posed by the goods and their origins as a reason for not reviewing biosecurity measures for imported pork.

“However, the risk has clearly changed. The landscape is vastly different since this risk calculation was last done,” Kleiss said.

“Pork is now arriving in greater volumes from different countries, many of which were not afflicted with diseases like ASF or Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome   when the initial assessments were conducted.”

ASF does not affect humans but is highly contagious and fatal for pigs, which become infected in a number of ways, including from eating untreated scraps of imported pork. 

The NZ pig herd is free from most pig diseases that have impacted pork production globally and farmers operate very extensive biosecurity systems to keep their stock healthy.

The ASF virus first appeared in 2007 and has spread rapidly throughout Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific, affecting both domestic and wild pigs.

The virus is highly resistant and can survive in various pork products, including ham, sausages and bacon, as well as on clothes, boots, wheels and other materials. It can exist for weeks in refrigerated pork, over a year in dried product and indefinitely in frozen pork. It can spread by air for over 2m between infected and susceptible pigs. 

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