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NPA members urged to write to MPs to call for action on ASF threat and border controls

8th Apr 2024 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA is urging members to write to their MP to call for Government action on African swine fever prevention and border controls.

Dover coach contentsA template letter has been circulated to members and is available in the Members’ Area of the website.

The call for action comes amid ongoing industry concern over Defra cuts in funding for the Dover Port Health Authority (DPHA) to carry out its vital work in seizing illegal meat imports at the port.

Defra told DPHA in December that it was cutting its budget from £3.2m to £1.2m in 2024/25, starting in April, and then to nothing in 2025/26. The council says it needs £4m to perform the work, which has also been extended to Coquelles on the other side of the Channel, further stretching resources.

The template letter highlights how, since Defra introduced new rules in September 2022 making it illegal to bring pork and pork products over 2kg into GB, unless produced to the EU’s commercial standards, the DPHA and Border Force have seized more than 75 tonnes of illegally imported meat (pictured above is a consignment of illegal meat seized from a bus at the port).

The vast majority of this is pork and is arriving from countries where ASF is present, and therefore poses a significant risk to the health of our national pig herd.

The letter warns MPs that the 70% reduction in funding from this month ‘will lead to even more illegal imports passing into the country undetected, ultimately, increasing the threat of ASF’.

It highlights the ‘catastrophic impact’ on the pig sector if ASF was allowed to reach the UK, including the culling of thousands of pigs, a total standstill on animal movements and ultimately the loss of farming businesses and potentially the entire sector forever.

The letter asks MPs to urge the Government to overturn the planned funding cuts and increase resource to Border Force to ensure checks are fully implemented and actually enhanced where possible.

It also requests that they ask the Government to remove the current 2kg limit on non-commercial meat products in place of a blanket ban, as this would be far easier for tourists and travellers to understand and for government to implement and enforce.

“As a sector, we are doing everything within our power to protect our animals and prepare our businesses, but this is all just a futile effort if our borders are permitted to remain so vulnerable to illegally imported meat; the most significant risk in the spread of ASF,” the letter states.

“Therefore, I urge government to take this threat seriously and I thank you in advance in conveying this important message to the Defra Ministerial and Home Office teams.”

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said: “ASF is the greatest risk we face as a pig sector and we need to do all we can to protect our pig herd from it. We would, therefore, encourage all members to contact their MPs on this extremely important subject."

"Members are more than welcome to copy and paste it as they wish or simply use it as the basis for their own letter. The more personalised to your business you can make it, the better."

You can find your local MP’s contact details here.

Defra challenged on Dover stance

Defra Secretary Steve Barclay struggled to explain the Department's stance on funding checks for illegal meat imports when he appeared in front of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last week.

Prior to the meeting, EFRA published a letter to it from Lucy Manzano, head of Dover port health & public protection, which criticised the Department on a number of the points it made in its response to questions from EFRA on the subject.