Biosecurity threats still looming over industry

Apr 27, 2023 | Column

It was not long ago that plenty of media attention was being paid to the threats from Foot and Mouth Disease and Lumpy Skin outbreaks occurring in Indonesia, and the dangers it meant for Australia’s agriculture sector.

While the media attention has died down, the threats to our biosecurity are still present and the biosecurity risks from increased detections of several EADs in South East Asia have not gone away.

PPSA has been working alongside its commodity groups members Livestock SA and SA Dairyfarmers’ Association, along with PIRSA, to ensure our industry remains ready in the event of any incursions into Australia.

Agriculture Victoria recently hosted a visit from PPSA, the Department of Primary Industries and Regions and Livestock SA, to look at the Victorian electronic sheep and goat traceability system in action at the Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange saleyards and at Frew Foods International in Stawell.

The focus of the Victorian visit was looking at electronic identification of livestock, property identification codes (PICs) and keeping the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) records up to date, as they are all essential elements to helping the Australian livestock industry in the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak.

The Australian Veterinary Association advocates that the veterinary profession has a vital role to play in the prevention and early detection of diseases that threaten our biosecurity, and this is a view strongly supported by PPSA.

But well-documented issues within the veterinary industry, including workforce shortages and long hours, mean the sector could be challenged to take on significantly increased workloads in the face of an EAD incursion.

These issues are why the Malinauskas Government’s announcement of $6.8m of funding across four years to help SA combat the increased risk of EADs is so important, particularly as it includes additional vets and Animal Health staff for risk assessment, diagnostic and coordination capacity.

With a limited supply of veterinarians right across Australia, to the extent some businesses have had to close their doors, ensuring both the veterinary and farming sectors are adequately supported has never been more important.

One sector alone cannot provide the necessary protection we need to strengthen our defences against exotic disease.

Working in unison is the best way to help ensure the appropriate systems are in place to safeguard against these diseases.

The impact of any EAD incursion should not be underestimated, with disease outbreaks such as FMD predicted to lead to more than 8000 job losses in the SA primary production sector alone.

Modelling from ABARES showed that a large outbreak of FMD could potentially cost the national economy as high as $80 billion across 10 years.

Higher food prices would be another flow on effect from any significant disease incursion, which would be sorely felt by many families already doing it tough due to the rising cost of living and increasing interest rates.

We all need to continue to work together to ensure exotic diseases don’t come into this country and that we are prepared if some of the worst-case scenarios – such as an outbreak of diseases like Foot and Mouth or Lumpy Skin – were to occur in Australia.

This column was written by PPSA Chair Professor Simon Maddocks and first appeared in the April 27, 2023 edition of the Stock Journal.

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