Defending Australia against African swine fever

3 September 2019

Australia’s biosecurity system has been stepped up to counter the threat African swine fever poses with Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie convening an emergency roundtable of experts later this week to identify if more can be done to stop the disease entering the country.

“African swine fever is potentially the biggest animal disease event the world has ever seen and it’s marching south through Asia, towards Australia,” Minister McKenzie said.

“The disease doesn’t pose a threat to human health but kills about 80 per cent of pigs it infects.

“There’s no vaccine and no cure for this highly contagious disease.

“Some estimates suggest China’s pig herd has decreased by 30 per cent since African swine fever arrived which may increase to 50 per cent by the end of 2019 – that would be a loss of 200 million pigs – one in four of the world’s pigs.

“We need to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep this disease out so we can safeguard Australia’s 2700 pig producers, the 36,000 jobs that rely on their businesses, and all those millions of Australians who enjoy eating our safe, high quality bacon and pork.

“We’ve not been sitting on our hands. The Liberal National Government has already ramped up inspections of people and mail arriving from countries affected by African swine fever.

“We’ve suspended trade of high risk pig products from affected countries and we’ve banned travellers bringing in pork jerky from all countries.

“But more can be done if we partner with industry.

“Since we increased border checks we’ve seized 23 tonnes of pork from African swine fever countries and of the pork we tested about 15 per cent was positive for the virus.

“I have called an emergency roundtable to tackle the threat of African swine fever with livestock, meat, stockfeed, food and beverage industry leaders, market analysts and Chief Veterinary Officers, on 6 September.

“Less than 10 per cent of Australia’s pig meat by value is destined for overseas markets. Australian consumers would be hard hit should the unthinkable happen to our pork industry.

“Biosecurity touches us all in underpinning the safety of the food we eat, in agriculture’s contribution to the national economy as well as the economies in regional areas, and in maintaining our way of life.

“The threats to the system are real and deserve proper resourcing and national attention.

“Biosecurity should be mentioned along with defence and home affairs as safeguarding the nation.

“We need everyone to take biosecurity seriously and make sure they don’t become a vector for a disease that could decimate our domestic pig industry and way of life by doing the right thing when bringing things into the country.”