NZ - Pig farming concerns
June 28, 2011
Pig farmers are worried that the liberalising of pork imports could put them out of business.
They fear that a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) decision to allow imports of raw pork will mean the arrival of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).
About 45 per cent of pork in New Zealand is imported, with about 60 per cent of that coming from the United States and Canada, which both have PRRS, says a Manawatu pig farmer Steve Kidby.
He believes trade pressure from the North America and Europe is behind MAF's move to open up raw pork imports.
At present, pork arriving from PRRS-infected countries has to be cooked because the virus survives in fresh and frozen meat.
"You only have to have raw pork bones, or trimmed meat from PRRS-infected countries discarded and fed to pigs, and the disease could be here," Mr Kidby says.
The disease – Australia and New Zealand are among the few countries that do not have it – can hit sows, killing piglets in gestation, and at its peak can kill up to 70 per cent of piglets before weaning, and another 15 per cent after weaning, he said.
"It is not likely to come in through the 130 commercial piggeries. They feed mainly grain. But there are about 12,000 people who have one or two pigs or run semi-commercial farms with 10 to 20 sows, and they collect and feed food scraps from restaurants, caterers and hospitals," says Waipukurau pork producer John Riordan.
MAF says the disease has a one-in-1227 year's chance of an outbreak.
Professor Roger Morris, formerly of Massey University and an expert in animal disease spread, assesses the risk as more likely to be once every few years, Mr Kidby says.
Instead of MAF supporting the industry, it is working against its concerns and scientific information, Mr Riordan says.
"It makes no sense," Mr Kidby says. "What is MAF's biosecurity role? PRRS is the world's No 1 disease of pigs. Why should we open ourselves to it?
"Australia has not opened itself up, because it values its biosecurity."
Mr Kidby and Mr Riordan are concerned that if MAF is able to open up New Zealand to raw pork imports, it will be flying in the face of good science.
"All agriculture and horticulture should be concerned about that. If we are not basing decisions on science, then it opens the way for other imports that could threaten our primary industries," Mr Kidby says.
"`New Zealand has set some of the world's highest welfare standards for pigs. We're phasing out gestation stalls, and yet MAF is lowering biosecurity standards in relation to a disease which will cause the deaths of thousands of piglets a year. That is a welfare issue," Mr Riordan says.
Ad Feedback At a time when pork producers are having to pay more for grain, and are being asked to put up capital investment of $21 million to move away from gestation stalls, this decision makes no sense, he says.
"Producers will be reluctant to make that commitment and will take a wait and see stance, " Mr Kidby says.
"The pork industry has taken every opportunity to present the science to MAF, showing there is a risk," Mr Riordan says. "There are only 130 commercial piggeries, and we have had to spend $800,000 reviewing the science, and modelling the risk to present the case to MAF, yet it seems to have had no effect."
An interim High Court decision late in May stopped any importing of raw pork from PRRS-infected countries until a court case in full between MAF and the pork industry is heard in August.
New bee disease
Beekeepers are worried that honey imports from Australia could result in the industry here getting a new disease.
They want to see MAF's biosecurity arm separated from the ministry, because of a possible conflict of interest with MAF promoting free-trade agreements.
Meanwhile, Minister for Biosecurity David Carter reiterated the Government's commitment to government industry agreements (GIA) in a round of meetings with leading industry representatives last week.
He said strengthened partnerships between industry and the Government would lead to better results in dealing with incursions of pests and diseases.
"In discussion with industry, the Government has agreed to meet a minimum cost share of 50 per cent for priority readiness and response programmes."
But people in primary industries have expressed their concern about industry-government partnerships to cover biosecurity issues, saying they have paid through tax already, and it is the Government's responsibility.
Source: newsroom - meattradenewsdaily.co.uk
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