Most world markets remain shut to British breeders

UK - At the current rate of progress it could be the end of the decade before all the British pig industry's world markets are reopened.
calendar icon 6 October 2003
clock icon 4 minute read

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NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & White-hall, and with pro-cessors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

Three-quarters remain closed, following the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. The 45 countries concerned include Korea, Japan, China, Mexico, Russia and Brazil. The United States will take pigs but not semen.

British pig producers are in little doubt that in some countries at least other agendas are at work - more to do with protection of markets than animal health.

But there is also the question of whether the UK government has devoted sufficient resources to the problem.

The Defra team responsible for certification is about the same size now as it was pre foot and mouth, and swine fever. Pig breeders believe it is significantly under resourced for the task of renegotiating the terms of export certificates with so many reluctant countries.

They would like to see outside staff brought in on short-term contracts. Otherwise, they fear, it will be several years before all markets are reopened.

Some of the markets - for instance Korea - are of huge importance to British breeding companies.

Meanwhile, some overseas producers, having been deprived of British genetics for so long, have no option but to make other arrangements.

One way UK breeders apply pressure is to continue talking to their former customers about the world-beating characteristics of British breeding stock, so that the producers in turn put pressure on their own governments.

The current tardiness with which export markets are being reopened must be borne in mind when considering whether vaccination should be used in any future outbreak of foot and mouth or swine fever.

It would be essential to ensure Britain's trading partners were convinced that any risks involved with vaccination were acceptable.

Whilst vaccination can be a useful weapon it remains bedevilled by grey areas, which is why a slaughter policy will remain the main tool for combating foot and mouth.

In any future outbreak, the UK government will be bound, by EU law, to consider vaccination, but this does not mean an end to the slaughter-and-burn scenes we saw nightly on our televisions during the peak of the 2001 epidemic.

The fear with vaccination is that an animal might be incubating foot and mouth at the time it was vaccinated. The vaccine would suppress clinical symptoms of the disease but the animal might become a carrier, with the potential for becoming viraemic at some future stage.

Pigs cannot become carriers but cattle can, and to a lesser extent, sheep. There is no evidence that carriers would infect other animals, but equally it is difficult to prove that it couldn't happen. Government's view will be that though the risk is low, it cannot be ignored.

Although PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests could detect carriers immediately post infection they cannot after 28 days, whereupon more sensitive detection testing would be required.

Vaccinated animals could not be exported, even after foot and mouth free status had been regained, except for breeding nucleus of animals indispensable for the survival of a breed, and zoo animals.

Importantly, the decision on vaccination in the event of a future outbreak would be transparent, Vaccinated animals would be eartagged.

Source: Digby Scott - National Pig Association - 6th October 2003

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