Lay off suckling pig feasts, says deputy minister

Sim Tze Tzin, the deputy minister for agriculture and agro-based industry and the director-general of veterinary services, Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam, inspecting pigpens at the KB Wong Brothers’ pig farm in Sungai Bakap, Penang, today.

NIBONG TEBAL: With African Swine Flu spreading across Asia, Malaysian restaurant-goers have been urged to avoid suckling pig, a popular delicacy for special occasions and feasts, as the piglet is imported from China and Vietnam.

Malaysian pig farmers have also been urged to take measures to protect their farms from the African Swine Flu virus, which has spread across China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea and Laos.

Laos is the latest country with an outbreak and China and Thailand have banned imports of live pigs and carcasses from Laos to prevent the spread of the virus.

Stringent checks on imported pork are being conducted at Malaysia’s borders, entry points and ports, the Veterinary Services Department said.

African Swine Fever is fatal to pigs but does not affect humans. Millions of pigs have been slaughtered in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam to try to stop the spread of the disease.

The warning against consuming suckling pig came from Sim Tze Tzin, the deputy minister for agriculture and agro-based industry. He said Malaysia was free of the virus so far, being reasonably distant from Laos and with Thailand as a buffer in between.

“But it is spreading like wildfire. It is no joke. Although we are okay, it is a clear and present danger to Malaysia,” Sim said.

The Veterinary Services Department has given the thumbs up to KB Wong Brothers’ pig farm for meeting biosecurity standards.

Sim said pig farming was a RM3.5 billion business, and is worth RM5 billion to the economy if pork-related food processing was combined. He said Malaysia was self-sustaining and did not rely on much imports with just 7% of foreign pork entering the country.

“We have to be super careful so the virus does not enter Malaysia. Don’t forget, we had the Nipah virus some 20 years ago, that is enough,” he said. More than 100 people died in a Nipah virus epidemic in 1998, and tens of thousands of pigs were culled to contain the outbreak.

Sim urged pig farmers to take biosecurity measures and ensure the cleanliness of animal handlers, transport vehicles and pig pens. All farm workers must wear protective clothing, and boots should be soaked in disinfectant before workers enter the farms.

Pig farmers should give their animals commercial animal feed and not food waste which may be contaminated with the virus.

Sim spoke to reporters after visiting KB Wong Brothers’ pig farm at Kampung Valdor, Sungai Bakap, which was described as a model piggery in keeping the farm clean.

Malaysia’s pig population is estimated at 1.5 million on 600 pig farms in the country, with 100 of them in Sabah and Sarawak. The top producers are Perak, Penang, Johor and Melaka.