The NPA is calling for action from Government on various fronts to prevent and prepare for an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF).
ASF continues to spread in Europe with the virus recently arriving for the first time in wild boar in Sweden, while cases in domestic pigs have been recorded for the first time in northern Italy, where thousands of pigs have been culled. Various countries across the Balkans have also been battling major outbreaks.
The pig sector’s concerns have been exacerbated by the ongoing delays in implementing the Government’s Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), which will eventually introduce proper border checks on EU meat imports. The introduction was recently put back from October until well into next year.
The NPA is also concerned at a lack of preparedness in the event that ASF does reach the UK pig herd, for example, on APHA’s response plans and the implications for UK pork exports.
In a briefing to MPs, the NPA has spelled out the industry’s needs:
- No further delays on checks for goods entering the UK from the EU.
- Improved and increased border controls for meat imports, for example sniffer dogs at ports, airports, Eurotunnel and postal hubs, alongside better communications, including messaging at points of entry, to emphasise the risks of bringing in meat products.
- A review of APHA resource and available expertise to ensure it has the capability to respond quickly and effectively to notifiable disease outbreaks, particularly as the ongoing Avian Influenza outbreak means the agency could be facing concurrent outbreaks of two different notifiable diseases. A 2022 Public Accounts Committee report on APHA’s Weybridge laboratory highlighted this critical issue.
- An urgent plan for regionalisation with our trading partners to ensure that unaffected parts of the UK could still export pork in the event of an outbreak.
In a response to a letter from NPA chairman Rob Mutimer, Farming Minister Mark Spencer gave no indication the Government intends to introduce new checks in the meantime.