ST VINCENT AND THE Grenadines (SVG), has been self-sufficient in fresh pork production for a number of years. However, this situation can be drastically changed with an ensuing loss of income and livelihoods if the African swine fever ever enters these shores.
The deadly disease, which already has caused millions of dollars of loss in China, has now reached the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
And, the Animal health and production division within the Ministry of Agriculture, has issued a red alert and ramped up measures to keep the disease from entering this country.
Veterinary officer Dr. Malaika Glasgow, told SEARCHLIGHT that a major element of the prevention strategy being implemented is ongoing public awareness which involves stakeholder meetings for border control agencies and associated agents.
In addition to their sessions with officers at the customs, immigration, airports, seaports and public health departments, staff within the Division have also been holding meetings with pig farmers to impress upon them the need to heighten their bio-security.
This includes such actions as ensuring that they know who is visiting their farms, and not using uncooked kitchen scraps in food given to their pigs.
“We don’t advocate the use of swill; we advocate the use of commercial feed, so that is what we want to have all farmers doing, using commercial feed, knowing who is coming onto their farm.
“We have to make them aware now while the disease is not here to remind them of the proper rules and the way they should operate,” Glasgow explained.
Additionally, greater attention is paid in the issuance of import certificates for pork and pork products.
While there is self-sufficiency in fresh pork, specialised cuts and processed cutlets such as hams, are among the pork products imported.
The Animal health and production division stressed in a release that the disease is not in SVG, but Glasgow pointed out that while there are no direct flights to this country from either of the two swine fever affected CARIFORUM countries, travel from these places via third countries does occur, hence the need for increased vigilance.
” We are also reminding persons that once you are bringing in meat from anywhere, you have to apply to the animal health and production division for permission.”
The public is being asked to note that the African swine fever can be spread by live or dead pigs, pork products, contaminated feed and objects, or materials which are likely to carry infection, such as shoes, clothes, and unsanitary farm equipment. It survives in meat for several months at 4°C; in carcasses for up to six months (or more if frozen); in skin fat for 300 days. The disease also survives in salted, dried meat for up to 120 days; in ham in brine for up to 180 days; and also survives in frozen meat and meat products indefinitely.
The Caribbean Region has been monitoring the outbreak and spread of African swine fever over the last three years.