Call for regulation on NZ’s pork industry in the wake of global spread of African swine fever

The Government is being called on to start testing pork products imported to New Zealand and stop playing "Russian roulette" amid growing fears over the spread of African swine fever.

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There are calls to start testing imported products for African swine fever as the virus spreads worldwide. Source: 1 NEWS

The virus has devastated pig herds around the world and while Biosecurity New Zealand is confident in its systems, farmers around the country say more needs to be done.

One Canterbury farmer says it’s time the Government puts measures in place to protect the industry.

“Time and time and time again our biosecurity has been breached and we’ve had some very expensive breaches and I just think there's got to be a line in the sand and we say ‘enough is enough’ and we do some practical things to protect ourselves,” says Josh Hill of Poaka New Zealand.

He's worried about African swine fever, the virus predicted to wipe out a quarter of the global pig population.

It has spread from Africa to Asia and Europe, recently found as close as Timor Leste, just north of Australia.

Last month, World Animal Health officials warned that no country is immune.

“We are really facing a threat that is global, so we must not only focus on countries that are affected because they are a potential source for spreading the disease to countries that today are still unharmed and I hope remain so for a while,” says Monique Eloit of the World Organisation For Animal Health.

New Zealand imports 60 per cent of its pork but doesn't test it here, instead relying on Europe to do the job before it arrives.

“We don't need to test because the rules are very clear the country's that we're getting the product from don't have this particular disease,” says Chris Rodwell, MPI - Animal Health and Welfare Director.

But some aren't convinced it's enough to protect our own $750 million dollar pork industry.

“I think the testing should be done in New Zealand because otherwise we're relying on overseas authorities and there's just such a range of different scopes the overseas authorities have, I think that’s just Russian roulette,” says Mr Hill.

But Mr Rodwell, says MPI is confident in dealing with the risk knowing where this product is coming from.

It's the unknowns the industry body believes poses a major risk, people bringing pork items across the border and getting them by post as well as travellers bringing it in.

“What we're really trying to do is message strongly that if you've been in a country that’s affected, make sure you don’t bring it with you,” says David Baines, General Manager NZ Pork.

It comes as Biosecurity New Zealand has seized and destroyed more than 6500 pork products so far this year and has warning signs in place.