Greater surveillance for African Swine Fever at points of entry required

Dr Ng Siew Thiam

KUCHING: Greater surveillance at the state’s points of entry is required to prevent the potential spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) into Sarawak through incoming pork products.

This pertains to situations where consumers nowadays are easily purchasing food products from outside Sarawak through online means.

Sarawak Livestock Breeders Association secretary Dr Ng Siew Thiam said more surveillance efforts were required, particularly at airports, as these food products could slip through in the form of parcels. 

“Online purchases are one of the major concerns now. These parcels can be quite difficult to track, especially small amounts of food products which are packed differently,” he said on Tuesday (Feb 23).

He was commenting on Sarawak’s ban on the importation of pigs, pork, and pork products from Sabah effective Monday (Feb 22) after eight out of 13 pigs sampled from Pitas, Sabah tested positive for ASF.

However, he said it was not just pork products from Sabah which were a concern but also those from China and other countries.

“China also has ASF and there are a lot of processed food products from China which people can buy online and ship in.”

He said the risk of ASF spreading into Sarawak was a concern, explaining that if this happened, the virus could potentially wipe out the pig herds here, resulting in an increase in pork prices.

“There is no cure and no vaccine for the disease; once it strikes, you would have to close the farm and disinfect before you put in new pigs again. It can wipe out the entire farm, so we must be very careful.

“The Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak (DVSS) really has to monitor, control, and conduct surveillance.”

At the same time, he said Sarawak was 100 per cent self-sufficient in its pork production to meet local demand.

“Our consumption is about 350,000 pigs per year for the local market and production is more than that. We also export to Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia,” he said, adding that Sarawak had over 100 pig farms.

He said the state’s ban on importation of pigs, pork, and pork products from Sabah was more of a precautionary measure as Sarawak did not really import pork from Sabah.

“There may be some pork products going to Lawas as it is so near to Sabah, but not to other parts of Sarawak because we are self-sufficient.”

He said pork prices in Sarawak were so stable over the years due to the state producing more than required for its local consumption.