NPA calls for more resource to help keep ASF out of the UK
18th Jul 2019 / By Alistair Driver
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies has called for more resources to be allocated to surveillance at ports and airports to help keep illegally imported meat and African swine fever out of the country.
Last week, Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) revealed that fragments of ASF DNA had been detected in a sausage from Asia seized by port authorities. This was the result of a clamp down that saw 300kg of illegally imported meat seized and tested during June (pictured).
While completely harmless to humans, the ASF virus is easily transmitted and causes serious illness and death in pigs and wild boar. This disease has a huge impact in terms of pig health and welfare, while control measures also mean that the whole industry would be affected with significant implications for trade.
Defra recently announced it was introducing a poster campaign at ports and airports targeting travellers from ASF-affected regions with messages about the risks of bringing meat into the UK. The Department said it was also working with Border Force on improving its work in targeting and seizing illegally imported meat products from high risk areas.
But Zoe said the NPA wanted to see more tangible evidence of how the Government intends to take a more proactive approach to the problem.
“Infected imported meat is one of the key routes for ASF to enter the country, which is why the risk needs to be addressed,” she said.
“However, there are currently just two sniffer dogs deployed to detect meat in passenger luggage in operation across the UK and there no targeted plans to search baggage of passengers coming in from high risk countries, as has been the case in both Northern Ireland and Scotland.
“There also needs to be a concerted effort to collaborate with universities and other learning establishments to warn students planning on coming to the UK from affected countries about the penalties of bringing in meat illegally.
“With the need to prepare for Brexit, we know that budgets are tight and that has been a constraint. But we are concerned that UK Border Force is not taking the ASF threat seriously enough – it should be demanding more money from the Treasury to ensure it is up to the task.
“We have long been calling for more measures to be put in place at borders. We welcome the poster campaign the Government will be launching, but we need to see more done to keep ASF out of the UK, in particular, more proactive measures to ensure that when meat is brought into the country by passengers, it is detected and seized.
“There are many good examples around the world where border control resources are being significantly stepped up as a direct result of the ASF threat – and, increasingly, this is revealing the presence of ASF virus in illegally transported meat.
“We need to see similar action in the UK. The Government has estimated that a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ ASF outbreak could cost the country £90 million. We believe the figure would be much higher and that is why we are asking for more resource and effort to help prevent a potentially massive catastrophe for the UK pig industry in the coming months.”