The National Pig Association (NPA) has used its appearance on the Jeremy Vine Show to emphasise the disease dangers of feeding waste to pigs.
The BBC Radio 2 show looked at the deteriorating situation in China with regards to African swine fever (ASF) and the implications for the global pig industry, including the UK.
NPA chairman Richard Lister was a guest on the programme. He gave an overview of what is happening in China, including projections that up to one-third of China’s 200 million-strong pig herd could be lost to the disease, prompting a surge in Chinese export volumes.
Mr Lister was then asked how the situation was affecting UK producers. “There will be some switching into poultry, but there will be significant demand for pigmeat, which as a UK pig farmer, I hope is passed through to us as producers,” he said.
But he added that that so far UK producers, even after six months of very low prices, were yet to see any benefit of the China effect, even though prices were soaring virtually everywhere else in the world.
While the long-term impact on retail prices remains uncertain, he predicted consumers would be prepared to pay more if prices do rise. “A bacon sandwich is what we all dream about,” he said.
The flip side of coin is the risk of the virus reaching the UK's pigs. Asked if it might already be in the UK, Mr Lister said: “ Potentially. It could be sat in somebody’s fridge and that is why we have got to do absolutely everything in our power to keep our biosecurity up.
“The number one priority is keeping it out. But if it is here already, which it potentially could be, we don’t want to do anything stupid in terms of discarding food waste irresponsibly.”
He highlighted the work the NPA and others are doing to stress to pet pig keepers and smallholders the importance of not feeding any food waste to pigs.
The practice, which is blamed for causing the devastating 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, is both ‘illegal and highly irresponsible’, he added.
It follows an advert by online retailer Amazon which shows a pet pig being fed kitchen scraps, raising eyebrows in the pig sector.
The advert for the Amazon Echo Dot, which is currently being shown in cinemas, features a small boy feeding his pet pig uneaten food from his plate.
Because of disease concerns, the NPA has issued a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), pointing out that this is classed as swill feeding which has been illegal in the UK since 2001.