AVA inspectors (right) observing the pigs being guided into a pen on-board the vessel.
Pork is the red meat of choice for many Singaporeans. In 2016, we imported close to 117,000 tonnes of pork in total (compared to 29,000 tonnes of beef and 15,000 tonnes of mutton). Our pork supply currently comes from more than 20 countries. While frozen and chilled pork are imported from different countries such as Brazil and the Netherlands, our supply of fresh pork used to come exclusively from the live pigs brought in from Pulau Bulan, near Batam in Indonesia.
AVA is constantly exploring new sources of food, so as to reduce Singapore’s vulnerability to potential disruptions to supply. On 18 November 2017, Singapore received its first shipment of live pigs from the state of Sarawak in East Malaysia. This was also the first import of live pigs from Malaysia in 18 years.
The pigs were ferried to Singapore in a specially designed vessel, which was ventilated and had ample space for pigs to move around in their pens. Throughout the journey, the pigs were provided with sufficient feed and water on board, with vessel crew conducting regular checks on their conditions. Upon arrival, AVA inspectors examined the pigs to ensure they were well and healthy. Before and during the slaughter, there were additional checks on the pigs to ensure they were healthy. The carcasses were also checked to make sure that the meat was fit for consumption.
The importer, OJJ Foods Pte Ltd, is selling the meat at wet markets before retailing at supermarkets.
Click to watch a video of the live pigs arriving from Sarawak by boat
A brief history
Imports of live pigs and raw pork from Malaysia were suspended in 1999 due to an outbreak of the Nipah Virus (see box story). Even though there have not been any new outbreaks of the Nipah Virus, the import of live pigs or raw pork from Malaysia remained halted for over a decade due to the presence of Foot-Mouth Disease (FMD). Only processed pork, which had been heat-treated to deactivate the FMD virus, was allowed to be brought in from Malaysia.
In 2010, the World Organisation for Animal Health recognised Sarawak as a FMD-free region in Malaysia. In 2015, AVA assessed Sarawak's animal and veterinary public health programmes, and approved the import of frozen pork from the Malaysian state. In 2017, AVA approved the import of live pigs from Sarawak as well. The import of fresh pork from other regions in Malaysia is currently still not permitted as they are not free of FMD.
The new supply source of raw pork will better buffer Singapore against potential food shortages and disruptions, and consumers can also look forward to more choices when it comes to buying fresh pork.
An AVA officer inspecting the pig farm at the source in Sarawak.
WHERE DOES OUR SUPPLY OF PORK COME FROM?
The Nipah Virus and Foot-Mouth Disease
The Nipah Virus (NiV) is named after the village in Malaysia where the disease claimed its first human life. NiV causes respiratory and nervous problems in pigs. It can have devastating effects on animal populations, and has since been found in domestic animal species like dogs, cats, goats, and horses. Also, it has affected humans around the world, from Malaysia and India to Bangladesh and Singapore.
In humans, NiV is marked by fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, coma and potentially, death. In the 1999 outbreak in Malaysia, up to half of infected people died. There is no cure.
Foot-Mouth Disease (FMD) is another severe and highly contagious viral infection affecting cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep, as well as deer, antelope, elephants, and even giraffes. Although it is rarely fatal among adult animals, many infected young ones die of it.
FMD presents as blister-like sores on the tongue and lips of animals, in the mouth, on the teats, and between the hooves. As a consequence, infected animals are left weakened and debilitated. Humans are not susceptible to FMD, as it is not readily transmissible to us, but it seriously hampers agricultural production while the livestock recover. Importing animals or meat from FMD-affected regions would jeopardise Singapore's FMD-free status and in turn adversely affect our export trade.
Ensuring diversification and safety
Due to food safety and animal health reasons, only countries and establishments that have been fully accredited by the AVA will be able to export meat and egg products to Singapore.
Accreditation is an upstream measure of AVA's food safety system, in which we assess the robustness of an exporting country's national animal health and food safety system. We also take into consideration the powers of each country's respective authorities to enforce food safety and animal health requirements.
If a country is approved as a source by AVA, the export establishment in that country will then be individually evaluated to ensure that it meets Singapore's own food safety requirements. An inspection by AVA of that establishment in its home country may also be conducted.
In addition, all our imported food is subjected to our import requirements, routine surveillance, as well as inspection and sampling programmes.
To date, our accredited sources of pork include:
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2020