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NPA chairman takes antibiotic message to Hong Kong

21st Jan 2019 / By Alistair Driver

NPA chairman Richard Lister visited Hong Kong earlier this month to discuss how the UK has responded to the challenge of reducing antibiotic use.

Hong Kong lister 2He was invited by the HK Agriculture Food and Conservation Department to give a presentation to the island’s pig producers and veterinary department on how the UK pig industry made the strides it has over the past two to three years. “I was able to share with them what we had done as a business and as a wider pig industry,” Richard said.

He explained how the UK industry had started from a difficult position with an absence of data on usage, which it was able to put right with the development of the eMB-Pigs database. Antibiotic usage has subsequently halved in the space of just two years, with use of antibiotics classified as critically important to human medicine reduced to very low levels.

Richard explained how this was done on the back of a collaborative approach right across the supply chain and close working with the Government, with farm assurance standards used as a vehicle to ensure we followed the strategy set out.

But he stressed that, with further reductions to come as the industry strives to meet its 2020 target of 99mg/PCU, the key is to ensure pig health and welfare is maintained as antibiotic usage is further reduced and refined.

Hong Kong listerHis talk was followed by an excellent question and answer session, with those attending keen to learn more from the UK experience. “With the Hong Kong pig industry being as small as it is, it should not be hugely difficult to pull the antibiotic data together in the way we have done as the basis for their antibiotic strategy. The challenge will be taking producers with them on the journey,” Richard said.

During his trip Richard received an insight into Hong Kong pig sector, which has only 43 licensed premises, compared with 200 at one time. The small, densely populated island is just 5% self-sufficient, with the majority of its pork supplies are made up by live imports from China. These are slaughtered in one of the island’s two slaughterhouses, one of which works 365 days a year 24 hours a day!

“Producers are obviously very worried about the proximity of ASF and the Government is very concerned as to how it would control an outbreak and carry out any potential killing out of pigs. There is a wild pig population just to make matters more difficult for them,” he said.

“After my presentation I enjoyed witnessing a good old fashioned blasting of the government for the lack of support to the pig sector. Pig farmers have great passion for their industry across the world and the HK producers demonstrated that very strongly.”

“The following day I presented to the vets and government department, which was still feeling a little bit shell shocked from the previous day.”