When New Zealand’s Agriculture, Biosecurity and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor met with his new Australian counterpart yesterday, the subject of biosecurity was top of their agenda.
Federated Farmers vice president and biosecurity spokesman Wayne Langford says it is a good time to relook at meat imports - especially pork.
"It's time to realise what great, safe and nutritious pork is produced by our farmers," he told Rural News.
Langford made the comments after Australian authorities confirmed that viral fragments of FMD and African swine fever were detected in pork products at a Melbourne retailer. The products, believed to be imported from China, were detected in the Melbourne CBD as part of routine surveillance and have been seized. Viral fragments are not infectious and cannot transfer live virus to another animal.
Both Australia and New Zealand remain free of the disease, but a recent outbreak of FMD in Bali has put both countries on heightened alert.
NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss told Rural News that New Zealand's commercial pig farming industry is internationally recognised for its high-health status.
"Good biosecurity practices are at the heart of every pig farm. Our commercial pig farmers take stringent measures around movement of animals, people and vehicles."
Although the risk of FMD entering New Zealand is considered low, Kleiss says we cannot be complacent as the disease would have a devastating impact on our pig industry.
The steps the Government has taken so far, including banning travelers to New Zealand from bringing in any meat products from Indonesial, are welcome by pork farmers.
However, Kleiss saysthe NZ pork sector's concerns go much wider than FMD. He points out that much of the pork imported into New Zealand comes from countries where they are dealing with very serious pig diseases that are not currently present in this country - including African Swine Fever (ASF) and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).
"There is a risk that diseases could enter New Zealand in imported meat, and while harmless to humans, could spread to non-commercial pigs and into the wild pig population through feeding of meat scraps that have not been properly treated prior to feeding," he explains.
"This is despite New Zealand's regulations banning the feeding of untreated meat to pigs, which to NZ Pork's disappointment, are not well enforced."
Kleiss adds that while importing standards to manage potential disease incursions via imported meats are in place, NZ Pork's view is that these settings should be updated.
"New Zealand still allows fresh pork meat to be be imported from countries with ASF, so long as it is accompanied by documentation stating it is from an area or region certified free of ASF. Other importers of pork, including Australia, do not allow this to happen," he told Rural News.
"We want the Government to strengthen the biosecurity controls around imported pork to prevent diseases entering the country that could devastate Kiwi pigs."