Authorities vigilant but downplay local concerns as African swine fever sweeps Asia

Sim Tze Tzin advised consumers to avoid consuming piglets as a precaution and to eliminate demand for black market suppliers. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
Sim Tze Tzin advised consumers to avoid consuming piglets as a precaution and to eliminate demand for black market suppliers. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

GEORGE TOWN, June 17 — Malaysia has adequate pork and pig product supplies to meet local demand, Sim Tze Tzin said amid concern that an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak may disrupt availability.

The agriculture and agro-based industries deputy minister also said locally available pork and pig products were safe for consumption, but cautioned against piglets as these were commonly sourced from Vietnam due to limited production here.

Sim pointed out that Malaysia has banned imports of pig and pig products from countries affected by the ASF, including Vietnam.

“Yet, we still see roasted piglets are being served in Chinese restaurants, so there are now concerns about illegal smuggling in of pigs and pig products into the country,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

He advised consumers to avoid consuming piglets as a precaution and to eliminate demand for black market suppliers.

Sim’s ministry has also launched border control operations to stop these activities.

“We are working with Customs, Maqis and the border security agency to tighten our borders and to stop illegal smuggling of pigs and pig products into our country,” he said, referring to the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services.

Currently, seaports and the Thailand border are under heavy monitoring for smuggling attempts.

The ministry and the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) are also on high alert to prevent the spread of ASF to Malaysian pig farms, but Sim expressed concern that not all agencies may be aware of the urgency and threat to the biosecurity of pig farms here.

None has yet been arrested for smuggling pigs into Malaysia, but Sim said vigilance was still critical.

Even passengers coming from ASF affected countries will have their hand luggage checked to ensure that they do not bring in inadvertently bring in contaminated pig products from their home countries, he added.

On the home front, the deputy minister said the DVS and his ministry have also been educating local pig farmers on how to increase biosecurity in their farms.

The recommended measures include securing their farm fencing to prevent wild animals from encroaching and ensuring the feed given to the pigs are from known and safe sources.

“They must not feed the pigs with products of unknown sources, such as food wastes which is very dangerous and can compromise the biosecurity of the farms,” he said.

He said pig farmers were also advised not to visit other farms in countries with ASF as they could inadvertently bring back contaminated items that could then spread to their farms here.

Pig farmers must be responsible in protecting their farms by adhering to set guidelines, Sim stressed before urging farmers to immediately inform the authorities if they detect any signs of ASF infection.

This was so these could be quickly quarantined to try and reduce the risk of further outbreak.

“As long as the pig farmers cooperate with us, we are safe from ASF but we must always be on high alert to prevent it,” he said.

Sim also assured the public that the ASF was non-communicable to humans and there was no need for health concerns.

Malaysia banned the import of pork and pig products from China, Poland, Belgium, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia as a precautionary measure against a regional outbreak of the ASF.

According to the Federation of Livestock Farmers Association Malaysia (FLFAM), the ban will not affect the prices of local pork supplies.

FLFAM pig unit acting chairman David Lee said pork prices may have risen in affected countries, but remained between RM6.80 and RM7.80 per kilogramme here on average.

He said there are over 500 pig farms in the country that provided sufficient supply for Malaysian consumers.

“About 93 per cent of our pork in the country are locally supplied, so imported pork only makes up a small portion,” he told the Malay Mail when contacted.

He said pig farmers are also working closely with Sim’s ministry and DVS to prevent any ASF infections here.

“DVS and the ministry have been holding regular awareness sessions with local pig farmers, so that we know what to do to prevent the infection,” he said, adding that all farmers have been cooperating with the authorities.

The FLFAM is also organising a talk later this month on the ASF, which he said all pig farmers will attend.

According to recent reports, the ASF has spread around the Asian region despite the culling of millions of pigs in China and Vietnam. Outbreaks have been reported in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Mongolia, and North Korea.

Thailand is now on “red alert” and there are fears of outbreaks in Myanmar, the Philippines and Laos.  

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