Exotic disease incursion worries pork farmers

NEW ZEALAND - The increasing risk of exotic diseases entering New Zealand, as a result of a proposed relaxation of border controls by Biosecurity New Zealand, is casuing extreme to pork producers.
calendar icon 2 August 2007
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The issue was raised an the industry's conference and Annual General Meeting held in Christchurch last week.

Of particular concern is the likelihood of PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) entering the country via the imported pork. Research shows that feeding pigs food waste that may conatin meat from infected animals can infect them.

New Zealand Pork Industry Board Chairman, Chris Trengrove, said there were major flaws in Biosecurity New Zealand's analysis of technical data.

"The proposal to relax current controls on imported meat to allow untreated pork into New Zealand from countries where PRRS is endemic, is potentially disastrous and there are important principles at stake which concern other industries as well as our own," Mr Trengrove said.

"Knowingly releasing risk material into New Zealand, with reliance on ineffective post-border controls will make effective control of the disease risk to New Zealand pigs an impossible task" he said.

Mr Trengrove said that all producers believed they were entitled to justifiable protection of their industry's health status under the Biosecurity Act, and in addition, the principles at stake have potential implications for New Zealand's entire agriculture sector.

Mr Trengrove said the Board had spent "a small fortune" amassing strong technical and scientific evidence which showed the risks of untreated pork entering the country from countries where the PRRS virus is endemic.

"Biosecurity New Zealand reviewed the submissions and we were dismayed to learn that they intend to proceed and alter the Import Health Standard to allow imported pork into this country that puts the viability of our industry at risk," he said.

PRRS is the number one enemy for the pork industry internationally, with New Zealand and Australia are two of very few countries in the world that are free of this devastating disease. New strains of the virus continue to be identified. PRRS has been associated with up to 70 per cent piglet pre-weaning mortality, and a further 15 per cent mortality post-weaning.

Delegates at the conference voted to maintain the industry levy at $4.20 per pig, and to continue the additional levy of 25 cents per pig, which was introduced to fund work associated with another exotic disease incursion, that of PMWS (Post weaning Multi-systemic Wasting Syndrome) which was first found in New Zealand four years ago.

"The PMWS incursion has already done irreparable damage to our sector and we simply cannot let this disease (PRRS) into this country...it could potentially destroy the New Zealand industry, " Mr Trengrove said.

In the case of PRRS, the pork industry is not seeking additional border controls to be introduced. It is asking that existing regulations be maintained to allow pork imported from some countries to be treated before being distributed into the food chain.

"At the moment we do have some protection through the transitional facilities which allow at risk pork to be treated through the existing Import Health Standard, and to further relax this protection seems total madness," Mr Trengrove said.

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