The National Pig Association (NPA) has said Dover Port Health Agency needs £4-5 million to properly resource its inspection teams to enable them to confiscate illegally imported meat.

NPA chief executive, Lizzie Wilson, said the association continues to highlight African swine fever (ASF) and what it said is the government’s failure to protect the borders from the disease.

“None of us can get our head around why it [government] abjectly refuses to do anything,” she said.

“It would be a great headline ahead of the general election and a win for everyone involved.”

At the beginning of this year, the NPA said 57t of illegally imported pigmeat being seized at the Port of Dover since 2022 was “extremely worrying”.

This figure includes 5.5t of illegal pigmeat that was seized at the Port of Dover the weekend just before Christmas 2023.

Wilson said the revelations came from port health manager at Dover District Council, Beverley Edmondson.

In an article for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Edmondson said the large quantities of illegally imported meat being seized by Dover Port Health Authority at the port could be just the “tip of the iceberg”.

Regulations and risk

Wilson said the NPA wants to see the current 2kg allowance for personal imports removed.

“Meanwhile, we still have no detail about the personal imports policy that should have been introduced at the end of April, which we hoped might have gone some way in bridging this chasm, with government quite freely admitting it has no idea how it will work or when we will know more,” she said.

“This is not just a disease risk, it’s a public food safety issue, too, and undermines all our domestic product. It’s so frustrating.

“But this could all change, of course, come July 4. Will a different administration recognise the merit in our requests and opt for a quick win?”

She said the Labour Party has kept the details of its manifesto close to its chest, but the NPA “at least” has a good relationship with the shadow Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ministerial team, “who are always well informed and pragmatic”.

“The hope is they stay in place should Labour win, and we can pick up where we left off in our discussions on border control, contractual practice and, potentially, farrowing systems.”

African swine fever in Germany

Wilson and the NPA’s calls precede news of some 3,500 pigs needing to be culled after an outbreak of ASF at a fattening farm in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northern Germany.

Germany’s Federal Research Institute for Animal Health confirmed the suspected presence of ASF in samples from pigs which it said had become “clinically conspicuous”.

The exact cause of the infection is still unclear. However, there is currently no indication of an active epidemic among wild boar in the region, according to the institute.

The farm was officially closed and animal disease control measures were initiated. Investigations are also being initiated to identify a possible cause of the outbreak.

A 3km protection zone has been established, as well as a 10km surveillance zone which includes over 60 other pig farms, the local authority of Vorpommern-Greifswald said.