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Why regionalisation will remain a part of Europe's ASF response

21st Jul 2021 / By Alistair Driver

A third case of African swine fever (ASF) has now been confirmed in domestic pigs in Brandenburg, close to Germany’s border with Poland.

The virus was confirmed on another smallholding, with just four pigs, following the cases confirmed in a small organic farm and a smallholding with two pigs.

While the outbreak will not help Germany in its efforts to regain export markets, notably China, lost when ASF was discovered in wild boar last year, the regionalised approach to EU trade will continue, as the three cases have all been confirmed in the existing wild boar ASF zones. This means pork from producers in the rest of Germany can still be sold in other parts of the EU.

News that ASF has been found in domestic pigs in Germany has led to calls from UK producers for all UK pork imports from Germany to be banned (see the latest forum post).

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies pointed out that the regionalised approach is something the UK pork sector could depend on, if the worst happens and ASF is detected here.

“Part of the deal that the UK secured with the EU was to accept regionalisation in the face of any disease outbreak,” she said.

“We do not accept product that has originated from within a zone (no EU country will). That product has to be heat treated and used within the zone to prevent further spread, which means we won’t be getting any infected product through legal trade routes. 

“The same would apply if we got ASF in the UK – as long as the outbreak was contained to a specific area, other EU countries would still be obliged to take product from the UK as happened in 2000. 

“Of course whether that would happen in reality is yet to be seen (we will be testing this in the Exercise Holly this week) but legally they would not be able to refuse it. I’ve already had retailers on asking about this so clearly they are concerned too.”

She stressed that from a disease risk perspective however, the likelihood that the UK would import infected pork from Germany, Poland or any other affected EU country is low.

“The biggest risk in my view is people - bringing pork products as personal imports over here with them that have originated in affected areas – be they from the EU or further afield like China.

“This is also why we have been lobbying UK Government to beef up border controls at ports, airports and postal hubs.  Brexit has provided us with a unique opportunity to do this and we have pushed hard for a greater level of checks on passengers and product coming from higher risk countries.  

“They’ve not done enough in my view yet so we will keep pushing until we get more, although we have been working far better together on it now than I’ve ever seen before, so I am positive that our efforts will have an impact.”