THE fine line Australian beef walks between defending its biosecurity advantage and retaining access to global markets was a hot topic at the lot feeding sector's annual conference Smart Beef 2019 in Dalby last week.
Against a backdrop of the spread of African Swine Fever transforming the global meat trade, delegates and presenters said the value of Australia's clean, green image, food safety reputation and traceability systems could never be overestimated.
While animal welfare and the environment tended to be elevated in the sustainability discussion, biosecurity should remain front and centre, Teys value chain general manager Tom Maquire said in a panel discussion.
If we get the fundamentals wrong in this area "our world changes overnight," he said.
"Our business sent product to 46 different countries last week and we did that on the back of solid biosecurity standards," Mr Maguire said.
"We absolutely have to put pressure on our governments to keep diseases out."
When questioned by a member of the audience about why governments would ever entertain the idea of beef imports from other countries, Mr Maguire explained global trade dynamics were complex.
"Australia is signatory to international agreements and we assess (requests to import) on a country-by-country basis," he said.
"Nothing is zero risk but we want to send our beef to their markets and international law says we have to accept imports on the same conditions.
"There are 24 million Australians and we love them dearly but they can't eat all the beef we produce."
However, what we had to be mindful of as an industry was that when applications were made, they were assessed thoroughly and with rigour, Mr Maguire said.
"I know the likes of Cattle Council and ALFA (Australian Lot Feeders' Association) do scrutinise all applications made," he said.
The reason many countries attempt to gain entry to Australia was not necessarily because they want to send large volumes here but rather they want to "hold the card up saying Australia accepts our beef because we have a reputation for high standards," Mr Maguire explained.