Swine fever border efforts receive $66m boost

Swine fever border efforts receive $66m boost

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More officers, detector dogs and state-of-the-art x-ray machines on the front line.

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Efforts to arrest the threat posed to Australia by the global advance of African swine fever have been boosted to the tune of $66.6 million.

The extra Federal Government funding will put more officers, detector dogs and state-of-the-art x-ray machines on the front line.

The measures would also help protect the meat sector against other biosecurity risks, red meat industry leaders said.

Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said the funding boost was a decisive and welcome move by the government however increased screening was only one part of the necessary response.

"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," Mr Hutchinson 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."

The package announced today includes:

  • 130 more frontline biosecurity officers to be deployed from January 2020
  • Six new detector dogs to be deployed at airports and mail centres by July 2020
  • Two new 3D x-ray machines at Melbourne and Sydney mail centres to be deployed by July 2020
  • New capabilities for biosecurity officers to issue infringement notices on the spot at airports
  • A new biosecurity squad to check products brought into Australia for sale aren't fraudulently labelled
  • Zoning arrangements to help support continued market access for pork producers should ASF reach a part of Australia.

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"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," Mr Hutchinson said.

"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."

Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie said if the disease got into Australia it could decimate our pork industry that contributes $5.2 billion to farmers' hip pockets, regional economies and the nation's bottom line.

"Our agricultural sector, already battling drought, can't afford to take a hit of that magnitude," she said.

"We export 70 per cent 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."

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