Farming, veterinary and meat industry groups have described the Government’s move to delay post-Brexit checks on imports of EU food products as “an accident waiting to happen.”

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned pig farmers of illegal shipments of pork meat coming to the UK from Romania, which is currently suffering an outbreak of African swine fever in its animals.

According to the National Pig Association, an outbreak of the disease would pose an “existential threat to the industry”, which exports to more than 40 countries and is worth £1.6 billion a year.

Despite this, the Government announced in April that it was delaying checks on imports of EU agri-food products for at least 18 months. Brexit opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said it would save UK consumers £1 billion a year.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) described the move as “deeply misguided”. It said the move risked causing significant damage to the UK’s food and farming industries. A spokesman added that it also jeopardised the Government’s commitment to preserving high levels of animal and human health in the UK.

According to the BVA, diseases such as African Swine Fever have already had a catastrophic impact on agriculture and animal health in parts of Europe and elsewhere globally.

The body has repeatedly warned that delaying veterinary checks further could weaken vital lines of defence against further incursions and said that the move “flies in the face of common sense”.

There has already been one “near miss” reported by a UK industry insider, which involved a young cow sent from Germany to the UK to be slaughtered which had the Bluetongue virus. Fortunately, it was picked up, but only by luck.

However, the Government said that checks on EU agri-food products are unnecessary because the EU continually follows the same rules as before the UK left the bloc.

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Posted in Agriculture, Blog.