Producers want to know how much it would cost to launch an electronic tagging system for sheep?
The roll out of an updated livestock traceability system has long been on the cards but with the national flock still about 64 million, the costs to individual growers of tagging each animal are still unclear.
Victoria is the only state in Australia to have mandated the use of electronic identification (eID) tags on sheep, but the move - made in 2017 - has been heralded an "absolute success".
Sheep Producers Australia wants this sorted before the national livestock traceability system can be reformed.
SPA chief executive Stephen Crisp said it was well understood a traceability system would help protect Australia's multi-billion dollar red-meat and livestock industries from biosecurity threats from diseases such as foot and mouth disease.
The cattle industry already has a electronic tagging system in place.
Mr Crisp said ongoing detections at Australia's borders and the recent quarantine intercepts demonstrate these threats cannot be ignored.
Government officials said recently intercepted cargo detected positive traces of African Swine Fever and foot and mouth disease while plants known to be hosts of the horticultural disease xylella were also seized.
Alarmingly, some 24 per cent pork products seized at international mail centres in a blitz between Christmas and Chinese New Year in February were found to have fragments of ASF while 1pc had FMD traces.
"SPA takes these threats extremely seriously and has been deliberately and proactively working on the continual improvement of Australia's livestock traceability capability," Mr Crisp said.
SPA has been working with SAFEMEAT and its members on the development of reform recommendations to the National Livestock Identification System since 2018.
SAFEMEAT was formed to combine the efforts of government, processors and Australia's red meat industries.
MORE READING: Smart tags being developed.
Mr Crisp said SPA has accepted the findings of key sheep industry reports as "compelling evidence" to support national traceability reform for the red meat sector."
Five key recommendations were presented by SAFEMEAT to the National Biosecurity Committee early last year.
- The establishment of a regulatory or statutory entity responsible for managing Australian livestock traceability
- Investment into a database capable of handling all FMD susceptible livestock species
- Mandating individual digital/electronic identification of livestock,
- Creating an equitable funding arrangement for both the establishment and ongoing maintenance of the system plus
- A consultation Regulatory Impact Statement be conducted to fully assess the impact of these recommendations to provide a fully costed decision paper to a future agriculture ministers' forum.
Mr Crisp said the final recommendation was an appropriate next step.
He said SPA was "looking forward to the assessment of the regulatory impact of the recommendations to ensure the costs are fully understood".
"SPA expects that this work will determine the most appropriate method for implementing the recommendations in consultation with the livestock sector more broadly," he said.
"We acknowledge the potential cost and logistical challenges associated with the implementation of the proposed reform options for the sheep industry and therefore fully support an extensive and public consultation process.
"Government must examine what investment is required to facilitate a systemic improvement in biosecurity for the livestock sector.
"National traceability reform will ensure that livestock traceability can evolve and meet future biosecurity and market access requirements as well as unlock productivity gains throughout the supply chain, securing a strong future for sheep producers both domestically and within our global markets," Mr Crisp said.
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