The National Pig Association is calling on Government to step updefences against African swine fever, which is harmless to humans but fatal topigs. It wants Britain to step up security at border posts to preventcontaminated meat being carried illegally into the country.
Otherwise, it warns, Britain could lose its fast-growing pork exportmarket with China and other non-European Union countries.
The disease, which can survive for months in raw, cured, cooked and evenfrozen meat, has advanced from Russia and Belarus into Lithuania, and nowthreatens to be carried further into the European Union by infected wild boar.
NPA chairman Richard Longthorp has called on food and farms ministerGeorge Eustice to press for a poster and leaflet campaign at border posts, andin-flight announcements on planes arriving from Lithuania.
African swine fever is a notifiable disease and if it arrives in thiscountry it has the potential to seriously damage the nations pig industry,with animals being slaughtered en masse and a ban on British pork exports,which account for nearly a quarter of pig farmers income.
The United Kingdom pig industry is just emerging from its own recessioncreated by high feed prices, and to be struck with African swine fever nowwould be a blow from which some would not recover, he said in a letter to theminister.
Wethat is the pig industry and Governmentmust do all we can to ensureAfrican swine fever, or any other exotic disease, does not spread to the UnitedKingdom.
The loss of exports valued at 350m would be devastating to the pigindustry, a loss to United Kingdom trade, and would undermine all the greatwork that the pig industry and Defra have put into developing export marketsfor British pork and high-performance breeding pigs.
If Britain does not act quickly, there could be a repetition of thepersonal and financial trauma the countrys livestock farmers suffered in thefoot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, he warned.