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Pig producers urged to up biosecurity as swine fever hits Belgium

It came as the Belgian authorities attributed the spread to ‘leftover food being left behind by travellers from infected areas’.

By Lauren Dean and Alex Black. 

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‘Prepare for the worst’ – Pig producers urged to up biosecurity as swine fever hits Belgium

Pig leaders have issued a warning following the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in four wild boar in Belgium.

 

The National Pig Association (NPA) said it was particularly concerning because the virus had moved in ‘a big jump geographically’ from Romania where a further 42 outbreaks were found on September 3.

 

It warned the UK pig sector to be on standby and ‘be ready should the worst scenario happen’.

 

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the virus does not reach the UK pig herd,” NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said. “Our approach is three pronged.

 

“The first messaging to all pig keep keepers is to ensure they are doing all they can to keep the disease out, for example, biosecurity on the farm, being aware of any visitors that might have been to infected areas and, of course, reinforcing the message about not feeding food waste or any pork products to pigs.


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“We are also urging producers to be prepared for the worst and think about contingency planning if the virus does make it here, which will result in movement bans and other restrictions.”

 

The second was an increase in messaging to the public about not feeding feral or outdoor pigs, with the third a continued push on Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to better manage risk and work with UK Border Force to increase messaging at entry points to the UK.

 

‘Enormous consequences’

It came as the Belgian authorities attributed the spread to ‘leftover food being left behind by travellers from infected areas’.

The case was detected in the Etalle district near the French border.

 

Dr Davies added: “Our focus is on making sure we do absolutely everything we can to keep the virus out – the consequences of ASF reaching our pig herd are enormous, but it will only take one mistake to let it in.”

Biosecurity key in fight against disease

The news came only days after NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson advised pig farmers to ensure their biosecurity was of a high standard – and to maintain it – following a worsening situation in Europe.

 

She said: “Ensure staff are not bringing pork products onto units and eating them.

 

“For any Eastern European staff, make sure they are careful they are not bringing any pork products from home.

 

“If it is an outdoor herd or where there is a public footpath, make sure there is plenty of signage and people are aware.”

 

The Government has urged all keepers and the public to ensure pigs were not fed catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products, and any visitors to the premises should not have had recent contact with affected regions.

 

Keepers should also use dedicated clothing and boots for themselves and visitors, and prevent vehicles or equipment coming onto the premises without being cleaned and disinfected first.

 

Any feeding of meat products, including the feeding of swill, kitchen scraps and catering waste, to wild boar or feral pigs was also illegal, and infection of wild boar populations has been key in the spread across Europe.

 

Pigs suspected to be affected with ASF or classical swine fever must be reported immediately.

What’s the global situation?

What’s the global situation?

Romania

More than 140,000 pigs had been culled on just four large farms in Romania, with 42 outbreaks reported since August 22. Preventative culling has also taken place.

 

Pig farmers were concerned contaminated water might be a route of entry for infection.

 

Romanian origin meat represented less than 0.5 per cent of total pig meat consigned to the UK from the EU, but this was still several thousand tonnes per annum.

 

However, fresh or frozen meat from any ASF-restricted zone cannot be traded to other EU member states.

 

There have been six consignments of frozen pig meat from Romania consigned to the UK in the last month.

 

Some 95,000kg of total pork meat has been legally imported to the UK in 2018 to date from Romania and a similar amount from Poland.

 

Hungary

While no outbreaks have been found in domestic pigs, there have been cases in wild boar, with the movement of migrant workers the likely cause of an outbreak in April.

 

Movement of infected wild boar was the likely source of infection in the most recent outbreak in late July.

 

China

China has imposed transport restrictions after a sixth case of ASF was found and the Agriculture Ministry confirmed it has culled more than 38,000 pigs.

 

With cases confirmed more than 1,000km apart, there were fears of more cases likely to come and a threat of spreading to neighbouring countries.

 

It could also have a large knock-on effect on global markets, with about half the global pig population in China.

 

Russia

West Russia has seen two outbreaks on large pig farms of 12,000 and 37,000 pigs, and a unit with more than 100,000 pigs reported an outbreak in Kaliningrad.

 

Poland has also seen a recent outbreak on the northern border near Kaliningrad.

 

The increase in outbreaks in large commercial pig farms was a particular cause for concern, with farms with more than 1,000 animals affected in Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.

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