An African swine fever (ASF) outbreak could cost the UK pig industry £85m according to new government estimates.
This total estimate includes costs to the industry, reflecting the lost value of animals from culling, movement bans and trade restrictions, as well as costs of up to £5m for the government for disease control activities.
However, the National Pig Association (NPA) believes this figure could in fact be higher.
Exact costs would be determined by a large number of factors including geographic location, the husbandry system, epidemiology of the outbreak and whether wildlife was involved, David Rutley, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Defra, said.
Mr Rutley was responding to a series of questions about ASF posed by Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers, who raised the issue following a meeting with NPA members at the Lincolnshire Show.
He was also asked what additional resource has been allocated to UK border force to provide communications to the public on and increase surveillance of imported meat products from areas affected by ASF.
This question has taken on even more significance following the discovery of ASF DNA in illegally imported meat seized by port authorities in Northern Ireland.
He said Defra was working with Border Force to focus communications on passengers travelling through ports and airports when returning to the UK from the EU and Asia.
“We are in the process of developing a set of communications that will be distributed across UK ports and airports informing people of the disease risk and asking that they do not bring personal pork imports into the UK.
“These messages will be communicated through a combination of posters, leaflets, and social media” Mr Rutley said.
NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said he was pleased to see the ASF threat being discussed more frequently in Parliament.
“We note that the government estimates that an ASF outbreak could cost the industry £85m.
“We believe the real cost could be much higher, especially when the loss of pork exports, worth nearly £500 million in 2018, is taken into account,” he said.