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US pork a potential threat to SA, warns producers

| Supplier news

South Africa has already received 500 kilograms of shoulder pork cuts from the US, but the SA Pork Producers’ Organisation (Sappo) is taking legal action to prevent further consignments entering the country unless it complies with certain rules.

Sappo revealed that it lodged an application with the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to have the imports of certain cuts of pork from the US set aside.  

"Sappo's application is aimed to protect the health status of the national heard and not to prevent imports," CEO Simon Streicher told Fin24.

The application was lodged on September 5 and a date for it to be heard must still be set.

South Africa opened its market to US pork after President Barack Obama's administration threatened to suspend its trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Agoa allows duty-free access for South African products exported to the United States.

In a side letter, as part of the Agoa agreement, signed in January, South Africa agreed to the importation of shoulder pork cuts from the US.

This agreement was signed between the US Department of Agriculture and the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the chief director of Animal Production and Health.

However, it allows the US to by-pass the Veterinary Procedural Notice (VPN) route, Steicher told Fin24. "We are convinced that the VPN was promulgated to protect the health status of the SA pig population and that any concessions will jeopardise these measures," he said.

"All pork imported from countries that are not free from Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) should be subject to the procedures of the Veterinary Procedural Notice (VPN42) for the importation of uncooked pork and pork products," Streicher said.

PRRS, which was first recognised in the USA in the mid 1980's, commonly affect macrophages, particularly those found in the lung.  The virus multiplies inside them producing more virus and kills the macrophages.

The US is not PRRS free, Streicher said, and therefore should not be allowed to be a threat to the SA pig population. 

"Sappo is not opposing the importation of shoulder cuts on condition that it is done in accordance with VPN42," he emphasised. "Imports from the US should be subject to the same measures followed by all the other export countries."

Streicher explained to Fin24 that the VPN42 was implemented following an outbreak of PRRS in the Western Cape a couple of years ago. "It was a disaster for the pig population and came at huge costs."

Sappo warned in the past that a PRRS outbreak affect the competitiveness of the South African pork industry globally, result in fewer pig farms, loss of jobs and a severe hurdle for emerging farmers wanting to enter the pig industry.

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