By Peter Crichton
THE Belgian dioxin scandal continues to have far-reaching implications for the pigmeat sector worldwide, with perhaps a silver lining for UK producers.
Reuters report that vital Far Eastern markets have slammed the door on EU imports from some, but not all, member countries.
China has launched a nationwide campaign to track down all meat imports from Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore are also either banning or restricting meat imports from the four countries.
UK producers are hoping that the huge Far Eastern market will remain open to them, and meat exporters are already looking at ways in which trade with the largest pigmeat market in the world can be stepped up to fill the vacuum left by the scare.
Following the BPISG blockade of Felixstowe docks on 10 June to highlight the health risks attached to imported pigmeat, Ian Campbell, of the BPISG Eastern Region, has written to Jeff Rooker, the Minister responsible for food safety, asking for further assurances to be made to UK consumers concerning imports.
These demands include confirmation from the Minister that all imported pigmeat is guaranteed dioxin-free and, failing this, an announcement to all consumers that there are health risks attached to imported pigmeat being contaminated by dioxins.
The BPISG has told the Minister that, unless he can provide clear answers to the questions raised by 25 June, their campaign of militant action against pigmeat imports and the retailers who handle them will be intensified.
Producers will also be addressing this issue in planned confrontations with Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, and promise that his routine visits to Agricultural Shows and other events will be more lively than usual.
With the Royal Show less than two weeks away, it remains to be seen what response BPISG members will receive from the Government in the next 14 days or so.