New Zealand pork producers are nervous that imported pork is jeopardising efforts to rid this country of PMWS (post weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome).
The disease, which was first identified in New Zealand in 2003, has been contained through a co-operative approach between the New Zealand Pork Industry Board and Biosecurity New Zealand.
Pork Industry Board Chairman, Chris Trengrove, said the disease is endemic in most pork producing countries and is devastating for affected producers, affecting up to 30% of young growing pigs, and killing a high proportion of those affected.
It is believed that it was most likely to have been brought to New Zealand through imported pig meat.
"Bearing this in mind, we concur with Australian Pork Ltd's action through the Australian Federal Court in which it successfully challenged Australian government plans to allow pig meat imports from PMWS-affected countries. The Court ordered that no more import permits be issued, based on the risk management measures which had been earlier adopted by the Government.
"New Zealand producers fully understand the Australians' concerns and their desire to ensure that their national herd maintains its disease-free status in relation to PMWS," he said.
New Zealand and Australia were almost the only pork-producing countries which remained free of this disease after it spread around the world over the last decade, and New Zealand's reaction to the outbreak here was to embark on a programme to rid the country of the problem immediately and before it became widespread.
"The New Zealand Pork Industry Board is thankful that the disease was geographically localised, and the swift action by Biosecurity New Zealand, the industry's science advisor, Professor Roger Morris, and the co-operation of producers enabled us to contain the disease and ensure that that programme to stamp out PMWS was viable," Mr Trengrove said.
He said that the Board is continuing the programme and has budgeted to spend more than $1 million, whilst Biosecurity New Zealand is also incurring significant costs.
"We are very pleased with the results of the co-operative approach between the New Zealand Pork Industry Board and Biosecurity New Zealand in relation to the stamping out programme, and we hope to have it completed by early next year," he said.
"Our major concern, of course, is that if imports continue unchecked, the enormous effort and expense contributed by both Biosecurity New Zealand and the New Zealand Pork Industry will be wasted and PMWS will again enter New Zealand with the potential to devastate the New Zealand industry."
Mr Trengrove said that New Zealand had some level of protection through import regulations requiring imports of pork from countries infected with a second disease, PRRS, to be kept in quarantined transitional facilities with the pork then requiring cooking before being released for sale, but the effect of this cooking procedure on PMWS was unclear.
"The New Zealand Pork Industry Board will be asking Biosecurity New Zealand to add these requirements to pork being imported from countries that have PMWS, at least as an interim measure.
"Whilst consumers can be assured that there are no human health or food safety issues associated with either of these diseases, they both have the potential to wipe out our local New Zealand industry and force the country to become reliant on imported product, some of which may be of uncertain quality and origin," he said.