NZPork calls for halt on pork imports from countries with deadly pig disease

Media Release

9 October 2023

New Zealand’s pork sector is calling for a ban on pork imported from countries with African Swine Fever (ASF) until New Zealand receives assurances that robust biosecurity protocols are in place in nations impacted by the disease.

As the disease marches through Europe, NZPork is urging the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to halt pork products imported from trading partners affected by ASF and carry out an urgent assessment of those countries’ biosecurity systems.

The Swedish Veterinary Institute (SVA) announced the detection of ASF in seven dead wild boars, the first ever in Sweden, on September 7 and additional positive cases have since been identified. It's not clear how the ASF virus spread to Sweden.

A number of pork producing countries, including Australia, have halted Swedish pork imports in the wake of the outbreak of ASF, which has already caused the death of millions of pigs worldwide.

While ASF does not affect humans, it is highly contagious and fatal for pigs. The animals can become infected in a number of ways, including through eating untreated scraps of imported pork.

NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss said it is very concerning that New Zealand continues to accept pork from ASF-infected countries when a number of others have halted imports due to the outbreak.

“Armenia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Ukraine, as well as Australia, have all now banned pork imports from Sweden.

“Without swift action, we can expect to see even more Swedish pork entering the New Zealand market. In previous outbreaks, in Belgium and Poland, we saw a sharp rise in pork imports from those countries as other markets closed but our own border remained open to these products.”

Mr Kleiss said MPI has previously cited the strong risk assessment conducted on imports and the low risk posed by the goods and their origins as a reason for not reviewing biosecurity measures for imported pork.

“However, the risk has clearly changed. The landscape is vastly different since this risk calculation was last done. Pork is now arriving in greater volumes from different countries, many of which were not afflicted with diseases like ASF or Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) when the initial assessments were conducted.

NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss

“We need to bring a halt to pork being imported by ASF countries and for the Government to check those countries with ASF have acceptable protocols in place.”

New Zealand has a very high health domestic pig herd, free from most of the pig diseases that have impacted pork production globally, and Mr Kleiss said a major disease incursion could devastate the sector.

“Our pig farmers operate to the most rigorous biosecurity standards but the threat to the industry is ever present. A significant concern is that ASF could enter New Zealand and spread through feeding of untreated infected imported food scraps to pigs.”

The ASF virus first appeared in 2007 and spread rapidly. It has reached multiple countries across Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific, affecting both domestic and wild pigs, including Papua New Guinea where the first cases surfaced in 2022.

The virus is highly resistant and can survive in various pork products, including ham, sausages and bacon, as well as on clothes, boots, wheels and other materials. It can exist for weeks in refrigerated pork, over a year in dried product and indefinitely in frozen pork. It can spread by air for over two metres between infected and susceptible pigs.

Feeding pigs untreated food scraps that contain or have been in contact with meat is illegal in New Zealand. Food waste should be heated to 100°C for an hour before feeding to pigs. However, a key risk is that untreated food is fed to hobby farmed pigs. New Zealand’s feral pig population could also come into contact with food waste.