Defra follows NPA advice with Romania-focused ASF campaign
2nd May 2023 / By Alistair Driver
Defra has followed advice from the NPA to introduce a new ASF communications campaign targeting the UK's Romanian community.
A recent Government report outlining the Government’s plans to finally introduce new checks on imports from this autumn, under its Border Target Operating Model (TOM), admitted that insufficient import controls currently in place have resulted in meat being on sale in UK retailers that poses a ‘serious and immediate’ ASF disease threat to the UK pig herd.
These were commercial exports properly pre-notified on the UK imports system brought in by two UK importers and ‘linked to over 280 retail outlets in the UK’.
Writing in the latest issue of Pig World, NPA senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst pointed out that the illegal importation of pigmeat from countries unable to export due to ASF, such as Romania, pose an equally big threat.
"These loads are never going to be officially certified and are most likely arriving in vehicles using the tourist lanes through ports," he said.
But following advice from NPA, Defra has now an awareness campaign specifically targeting this risk.
"There has been advertising to those searching for flights to the UK from Eastern Europe and geotargeting for those using devices around common points of entry such as Luton and Stansted airport, as well as areas with a known population of Romanian people," Charlie said.
The Government is also working with a specialist marketing agency on other communications with the Romanian community, such as Romanian language publications and signage at ports and airports, all of which the NPA has been engaged with.
"Ultimately, it shows that the battle to prevent ASF reaching the UK will have to be fought on two fronts. The TOM will hopefully go a long way to addressing any unlawful activity in the commercial supply chain but tackling the illegal importation of pork will be far harder," Charlie added.
"It is not feasible to stop every vehicle in the tourist lanes coming into the UK without causing chaos at the ports. However, better targeting will help and the Government must continue and expand its current work on border checks and ASF awareness."
ASF continues to circulate in Europe, with Romania having one of the highest infection rates. It reported 34 outbreaks in domestic pigs between late-January and late-April, including a farm with more than 16,000 pigs, while ASF was also detected in 219 wild boar during the period, according to the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The whole of Romania remains under ASF restrictions.