The National Pig Association is calling for tighter border controls to improve defences against African swine fever.

The NPA wants Britain to step up security at ports and airports to prevent contaminated meat being carried illegally into the country.

If the disease was to strike in the UK, animals would have to be slaughtered en masse and a ban introduced on pork exports, the association has warned.

This would mean that Britain could lose its fast-growing pork export market with China and other non-European Union countries.

African swine fever can survive for months in raw, cured, cooked and even frozen meat and has advanced from Russia and Belarus into Lithuania.

It now threatens to be carried further into the European Union by infected wild boar.

See more: UK pigs at risk as disease spreads

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp has urged farm minister George Eustice to press for a poster and leaflet campaign at border posts, and in-flight announcements on planes arriving from Lithuania.

“The UK pig industry is just emerging from its own recession created by high feed prices, and to be struck with African swine fever now would be a blow from which some would not recover,” he said in a letter to the minister.

“The loss of exports valued at £350m would be devastating to the pig industry, a loss to UK trade, and would undermine all the great work the pig industry and DEFRA have put into developing export markets for British pork and high-performance breeding pigs.”

If Britain does not act quickly, there could be a repetition of the personal and financial trauma the country’s livestock farmers suffered in the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, he added.