September 19, 2023
UK perceived to be in need of stronger border control as ASF struck Sweden
The United Kingdom is under pressure to raise the threat level of African swine fever (ASF) from medium to high after Sweden reported its first case.
Since the disease was detected in wild boar in Sweden, the UK government has been criticised for its "lax approach" to post-Brexit border controls.
The new Border Operating Model of controls is not expected to start until the end of January 2024.
Natalie Elphicke, a UK member of parliament, blamed cross-governmental working for the delay in introducing controls, as no single person is in charge. She said a dedicated "Department for the Border", similar to the system operating in the United States and Australia, should be established, to "bring order at the border". This would be responsible for customs, trade, visa entry, migration and – on the issue of ASF – biosecurity.
The continuing lack of checks left UK pig producers exposed to the potential introduction of ASF, said NFU Scotland pigs committee chairman Jamie Wyllie.
"Without proper border enforcement, we have little chance of stopping this disease," he said. "The UK government still insists ASF is a medium risk when reporting disease, but without border controls and the disease still spreading in Europe, NFU Scotland believes this should be moved to high."
With a significant distance between the case discovered in Sweden and others in Europe, it is suspected that transmission has been via humans, through food, clothing or vehicles.
The UK's National Pig Association (NPA) wants to see more frequent and robust checks at all points of entry, including ports, airports and postal hubs.
Recent routine inspection of retail shops by local authorities in the UK detected frozen, raw and uncooked meat products marked clearly as suitable only for sale in the originating country. These products were exported commercially and properly pre-notified on the UK imports system.
Although the products did not test positive for ASF, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said the fact they had reached the UK presented a "serious and immediate threat" to the pig industry.
Farmers are being urged to maintain high levels of biosecurity, including who and what they allow on their farm.
- Farmers Weekly