Thursday, 30 May 2019

Questions (104)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

104. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the contingency plans he has deployed in terms of monitoring and biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of African swine fever here; and the supports which will be available to pig farmers. [23158/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a very serious and usually fatal viral disease of pigs. The disease has spread to a number of EU Member States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Belgium) as well as to countries in Asia. The disease does not affect other animal species or humans and there are no food safety implications.

ASF has never been detected in Ireland. The introduction of ASF into Ireland would have very serious implications for the pig industry here. For this reason, it is important that everyone plays their part in keeping these disease out of Ireland. The most likely routes of introduction would be through the import of infected live pigs (including wild boar) or pig products from affected countries.

Members of the public should not bring in pigmeat products from affected countries and should ensure that all food waste is disposed in a way that animals cannot get access to it. Keepers of pigs are reminded that they must be registered with my Department. Keepers of pigs, including those with only one or two pigs, are reminded that the feeding of food waste containing meat and meat products is strictly prohibited.

To protect their animals and their businesses, all keepers of pigs should implement strict biosecurity measures including tight controls on who has access to their pigs. Under the current Rural Development Programme (2013-2020), funding is available to all commercial pig farmers, through the Targeted Advisory Service for Animal Health (TASAH) mechanism, to have a comprehensive and objective ‘Biocheck.UGent’ biosecurity review carried out on their farms by a trained private veterinary practitioner. This service is free of charge to pig farmers. Animal Health Ireland (AHI) delivers the TASAH funded biosecurity reviews on behalf of my Department. To avail of the Biocheck review, farmers should contact their private veterinary practitioner or Animal Health Ireland.

As part of measures aimed at minimising the risk of the introduction of exotic diseases such as ASF into Ireland, my Department has been involved in a range of activities including monitoring the international disease situation, working with international partners and monitoring the movement of pigs into Ireland via the EU TRACES online platform. Keepers of pigs are reminded that the import of wild boar into Ireland is prohibited.

My Department has engaged in an intensive communications programme aimed at highlighting the risk of ASF entering Ireland to all stakeholders. Disease factsheets are available for both vets and farmers, and a letter was circulated to all registered pig keepers as part of the annual pig census. Posters have been placed in airports and on ferries warning people travelling abroad about the risk of bringing home meat products. Tailored biosecurity information including a multilingual poster has been produced for farmers and farm personnel. The Department circulated specific advice regarding ASF for international general hauliers in conjunction with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Tailored biosecurity leaflets have been produced for international livestock hauliers and hunters who may travel to ASF affected countries. An awareness campaign reminding all that the feeding of food waste containing meat products to pigs is prohibited is now being launched. Checks are carried out by both Revenue and the Department at ports and airports using a risk based approach. Manual checks along with a trained Customs dog and scanning equipment is used at Dublin airport to detect food in luggage.

Specific EU legislation (Directive 2002/60/EC) is in place that sets out the control measures to be implemented in the event of an ASF outbreak in an EU member state in order to control the disease and prevent any spread. These control measures include, for example, culling of animals in affected herds, animal and animal product movement restrictions, investigation into the source of disease and surveillance of susceptible populations. These control measures are being implemented in the affected countries and my Department stands ready to implement such measures in the event ASF were to be introduced into Ireland.