A new, multi-million pound programme to improve the health status of Britain’s pigs could be threatened by unrestricted trade in weaners from other EU countries, warns the leader of the country’s National Pig Association.

”We have just launched this project in Yorkshire and hope to roll it out across the whole country soon. Our producers will be working together in clusters on destock and mass vaccination schemes, which is a big task. We cannot afford to let this work be jeopardised by the import of a few weaners which may bring new diseases to this island nation from mainland Europe just for the sake of a few quick bucks,” said NPA director Stewart Houston.

The NPA was particularly concerned about the growing trade in imported weaners bringing a new strain of MRSA into the UK. It is reported that nearly 40% of the Dutch pigs have the MRSA ST398, which has not been seen in Britain yet, although it is said to be widespread in other European pig herds.

Houston said: “My personal belief is that the weaner trade is untenable, because of the serious risk of disease spread. I certainly couldn’t build up any sound business plan that relied on it.

“We would rather it did not happen, but if it has to continue, we want to find a voluntary way to regulate it.”

He said the NPA was already talking to producers and exporters in other EU countries in an effort to find a solution in the near future.