Media Release

FMD is Australia’s most costly biosecurity risk

11 October 2013

A new report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) puts the cost of a large foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in Australia at more than $50 billion over 10 years.

ABARES Acting Executive Director, Dr Kim Ritman, said producers of beef, sheep, dairy and wool would be devastated by an FMD outbreak in Australia.

“The higher figures in this study, as opposed to the $20 million reported in previous studies, reflect the time it will take to re-establish lost market access and consumer confidence,” Dr Ritman said.

“Livestock product exports to most major trading partners would cease until the disease was eradicated and market access could be renegotiated.

“It could take several years before we could get our product back into the Japanese market, which is worth more than $1.5 billion a year to our beef producers.”

Australian Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, noted this could be a lengthy process, referring to experiences of other countries with disease outbreaks and Australia’s own challenges in opening new export markets.

“This ABARES report serves as a timely reminder about the importance of maintaining an effective and robust biosecurity system,” Dr Schipp said. “Australia has strict biosecurity requirements off-shore, at the border and on-shore, and our comprehensive biosecurity system has been designed to keep diseases like FMD out.

“We have worked closely with the states, territories and industry to ensure that, in the unlikely event that the disease did get into the country, it is eradicated quickly.”

The report assesses the economic and social impacts of an FMD outbreak and presents a benefit-cost analysis of different eradication strategies based on three hypothetical outbreak scenarios.

The report’s findings will inform policy on future management strategies and help minimise the costs in the event of an FMD outbreak.

The report, Potential socio-economic impacts of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Australia, is available on the Department of Agriculture website.