MAFF staff are working all out to tackle the outbreak of Classical Swine Fever in East Anglia and lift the movement restrictions affecting farmers.

Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore today told pig industry representatives he understood how important it was for farmers in restricted areas to be able to look forward and plan for the lifting of restrictions but that work on controlling the disease must come first.

Mr Scudamore told a meeting of stakeholders in London: "It is a huge task and we must prioritise. We have already had help from official vets from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and private vets from the Netherlands. We are seeking additional specialist help from American and Dutch veterinary services and we are recruiting additional non-veterinary support staff locally.

"We have developed plans for carrying out all the inspections, examinations and sampling which will be required before the Infected Area restrictions can be lifted. However, these will need to be revised in the light of the disease situation and we must guard against raising false expectations over the dates by which this can be accomplished.

"As work progresses in each Infected Area, the expected date on which restrictions can be lifted should become more predictable and we should be to give guidance to farmers on likely timetables. However, any such guidance will need to be heavily qualified because disease problems could occur right up to the last minute."

The meeting reviewed a number of positive developments which had emerged over the past fortnight:
  • The European Commission has agreed that pig producers under movement restrictions in the second declared Infected Area, in Norfolk, can send healthy pigs for slaughter for human consumption without heat treatment of the meat, provided strict conditions are met.

  • MAFF is consulting the industry on draft proposals to allow movement of pigs between farms within any given Infected Area under licence where no confirmed case has occurred in the Infected Area for 30 days. This will help ease the pressure on farms with excess stock by making it possible to move pigs to an empty farm within the same restriction zone under strict conditions.

  • Pig producer representatives expressed support for MAFF proposals, still under consideration, to speed the lifting of movement restrictions by tackling one zone at a time, rather all zones gradually over a longer period.
Mr Scudamore also announced that:
  • The Standing Veterinary Committee of the EU, which met in Brussels this week, has agreed that exports of live pigs from Essex to Europe can resume, in recognition of the fact that the Infected Area in Essex was lifted by MAFF on 22 September. The ban on exports from Norfolk and Suffolk remains.

  • The United States has agreed to resume imports of semen, live pigs and pigmeat from the UK other than East Anglia under a system of certification. The certificates are now being finalised.
Ministers have made clear that financial restraints will not be a limiting factor in tackling the swine fever outbreak. A large pool of specialist staff based at Bury St Edmunds is engaged mainly in disease control activities, including continuing investigations of the origin and possible spread of the disease and supervision of cleansing and disinfection of affected farms. So far, they have made more than 2200 farm visits, investigated 179 cases of suspect disease and traced nearly 2000 movements of pigs, vehicles and people. Veterinary inspectors have also visited 116 farms to check pigs entering the Pig Welfare disposal scheme.