With the Sochi Winter Olympics in full swing, pig producers are urging Defra to step up biosecurity measures to ensure an aggressive pig virus does not make its way from Eastern Europe to the UK.
African swine fever (ASF) - which is harmless to human Health but fatal to pigs - was recently detected within the European Union, in Lithuania, for the first time, having previously been found in pigs and pork products in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
In a letter to the National Pig Association, Defra minister George Eustice this week said the Border Force had been told to be especially alert to the risk of visitors to the Winter Olympics in Sochi bringing back potentially infected pork products, and that Defra would work closely with European authorities to keep the virus out.
But the NPA also wants the government to start running in-flight announcements on flights from Lithuania and for warning posters to be put up at all border posts. It said it was in the process of creating posters, and would be “contacting airlines and airport authorities for help deploying them”.
The NPA fears the British pig industry could lose as much as £350m in exports if ASF were to make its way into the UK.
Following the ASF discovery in Lithuania, European pig prices have already suffered. The Russian government introduced an import ban on EU pork two weeks ago, sending pig prices in Germany down 7 cents per kilo during the week from 10 February, with Dutch pigs down by 9 cents compared with the previous week.
Rabobank animal protein analyst Albert Vernooij said the ban was expected to remain in place for at least two months. Russia typically imported lower-value cuts from the EU, making it especially important for overall carcase valuation, he added.