The measures supported by the funding include: more biosecurity officers and six new detector dogs; two new 3D x-ray machines that will be installed in the Sydney and Melbourne mail centres and a new squad of post-border biosecurity officers to help identify and target incorrectly declared products brought into Australia for sale.
Other measures to be introduced include market access negotiations to facilitate continued trade if Australia does have an ASF outbreak and the development of a mobile capability through the implementation of portable devices to manage passenger biosecurity.
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the government’s focus was on keeping ASF out of Australia and the extra funding would put more officers, detector dogs and state-of-the-art x-ray machines on the front line.
“If this disease gets in it could decimate our pork industry that contributes $5.2bn to our farmers’ hip pockets, regional economies and the nation’s bottom line,” Minister McKenzie said.
“Our agricultural sector, already battling drought, can’t afford to take a hit of that magnitude. We export 70% of what we grow and we’re in demand internationally because of our reputation for safe, clean and green food and fibre – a reputation built on our pest and disease free status.”
“Right now the threat is ASF – there’s no cure, no vaccine and about a quarter of the world’s pigs have been wiped out because of it.”
Australia has never had a case of ASF however the disease’s march through Asia has got the authorities concerned. The Australian Department of Agriculture reported that between 5 November 2018 and 31 August 2019, it intercepted over 27 tonnes of pork on air travellers entering Australia.
The funding announcement was welcomed by Australian Meat Industry Council CEO Patrick Hutchinson.
“African Swine Fever has the potential to wreak untold damage on Australia’s pork industry so we certainly applaud the package announced today by Agriculture Minister Bridget Mackenzie,” he said.
“By stepping up efforts to keep out ASF we are also minimising the potential for other livestock diseases to make it past our borders. It’s a good move in the right direction and a real recognition of the importance of protecting an industry that employs so many people and supplies meat domestically and to markets across the globe.”
Hutchinson added that the measures covered the potential for continued trade if an outbreak took place in Australia.
“We are particularly pleased to see that the package includes measures to secure continued market access for pork producers should an ASF outbreak occur here. This is very reassuring for our pork processing members. The challenge now is to work with government to create this same level of reassurance for our smallgoods producers, who are also very much at risk thanks to ASF.
“Smallgoods production relies on a mix of local and imported pork, so we also need plans in place to ensure continuity of operation should one of our key supplier countries be affected by ASF. We’ve already had some very positive discussions with the minister around the best approach for the smallgoods sector and I look forward to working further with the department to get a solid plan in place.”