BY ALEX DADAMU
THE Solomon Islands Government has a step up campaign to fight against the African Swine Flu allocating more than $2.5 million Solomon Islands Dollars (SBD) in its quest to strengthen the country’s biosecurity measures.
The allocated funds will cater to support pig farmers who need that extra funding to meet food safety standards since that is the main issue for local farmers.
African swine fever is an infectious viral disease that can affect domestic and feral pigs of all ages. There is an 80-100% mortality rate and most significantly, there is no treatment or vaccine available as yet.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) during an information session for the members of the business community hosted by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) recently, highlighted the measures they have taken against the African swine flu.
Biosecurity Division within the Agriculture Ministry is using the power under the Biosecurity Act 2013 to strengthen the country’s biosecurity measures for permitted and unpermitted products.
“Smallgoods containing pork are not permitted into the Solomon Islands. They cannot be brought in by international passengers or sent through the mail because they pose a high biosecurity risk and could carry the African swine flu.
“There is also a temporary ban for commercial imports of pork and pork products for human consumption and this will soon include canned pork,” Mr. Tsatia said. According to the Biosecurity Director, other measures include increased interventions at the country’s borders.
“This includes heightened screening for pork products at airports and mail centers. We have placed African swine flu signage at our two international airports so that passengers know what is at stake and encouraged to declare pork items.
“We are currently working with airlines to request their assistance in passing on information to passengers about declaring risk items, including pork products.
The Biosecurity Director, however, admits that currently, the screenings at the borders are all 100% manual since there is no x-ray machine or detector dog at the borders.
Mr. Tsatia further stated that MAL has adopted a stronger enforcement approach to biosecurity infringements and will be focusing on pork and other meat products.
“The penalties we issue to passengers reﬂect the seriousness of the breach. Travelers who provide false or misleading information can receive an infringement notice with a penalty amount of $3000 or be referred for civil penalty proceedings or criminal prosecution. Companies face up to $1m in fine.”
“We are also thinking of adopting the Australian immigration law where international passengers who breach the Biosecurity Act 2013 by failing to declare high‐risk biosecurity items could also have their visitor visa canceled,” he said.
The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), as the peak body representing the private sector in the country, has stated through a press statement on Monday 10th February that they are supportive of measures taken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) to contain the spread of the African swine flu into the Solomon Islands.
SICCI Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms. Atenasi Ata through the statement emphasized the value of engagement of the private sector when regulatory bodies develop and implement new measures.
“It is not ideal when regulatory changes are developed with no consultation or prior information flow maintained to the wider business community. The private sector thrives by being kept up to date on changes that impact operations.
“Further, with their extensive networks in the country businesses can also contribute to swift remedial actions to address threats,” the SICCI CEO said.
In the meantime, SICCI said they are looking forward to more meaningful interactions with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock as well as other key Government agencies in the months ahead.