Singapore receives first import of live pigs from Malaysia in 18 years

The addition of pigs from a farm in Sarawak, Malaysia makes it Singapore's second source of live pigs, after Pulau Bulan in Indonesia. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore received its first shipment of live pigs from Malaysia in 18 years on Saturday (Nov 18), after a farm in Sarawak became the only approved source in the country to export live pigs to the Republic.

Its addition makes it Singapore's second source of live pigs, after Pulau Bulan in Indonesia. Live pigs are slaughtered locally and sold as chilled pork.

The import of all live pigs and raw pork from Malaysia has been banned since 1999, when an outbreak of the Nipah virus, which is carried by pigs, killed 100 pig farmers in Malaysia and an abattoir worker here.

In a statement on Saturday, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said while there have been no reports of new Nipah virus outbreaks in Malaysia, the suspension remains otherwise in place.

This is because raw pork from other parts of the country are not free of foot and mouth disease, the AVA said. Processed pork products from approved establishments in Malaysia must be heat-treated to inactivate the disease in order to be permitted for import.

Foot and mouth disease is a contagious livestock disease that does not have any impact on food safety. However, the import of animals or meat from affected regions jeopardises Singapore's foot and mouth disease-free status, and may adversely impact export trade, the AVA said.

Sarawak was recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health as a foot and mouth disease-free region in 2010.

The AVA subsequently assessed the East Malaysian state's animal and veterinary public health programmes and approved it to export frozen pork in 2015. This year, it approved a farm there to export live pigs to Singapore.

"Source diversification is a key food security strategy. Purchasing from diverse sources provides a crucial buffer against potential short-term overseas food supply disruptions from any one source," the AVA said.

There are currently 24 countries accredited by the AVA to export frozen pork products to Singapore, including Australia, Austria and Brazil. Six other countries, including Canada and the United States, are accredited to export chilled pork to Singapore.

Singapore imported 116,700 tonnes of pork last year (2016), with Brazil, Indonesia and Australia making up the top three sources. Live imports from Indonesia meanwhile accounted for 20,300 tonnes the same year.

Sources of livestock, meat and eggs, and their products must be accredited as these products may carry animal and food-borne disease of public health and trade importance, the AVA said.

Food imported from accredited sources is also subjected to import requirements and routine surveillance, inspection, and sampling.

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