Australian government strengthens biosecurity defences over ASF

Australian’s federal government has committed A$66.6 million (£35m) to help arrest the threat posed to Australia by the global advance of African Swine Fever.

Agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie said the government’s focus was on keeping ASF out of Australia and the extra funding would put more officers, detector dogs and state-of-the-art x-ray machines on the front line at airports and other access points for people and imported goods.

BeefCentral.com reported that the government is also proceeding with a biosecurity levy, in line with its commitment made in May 2018 and will legislate it in 2020. The new levy model will be developed in consultation with the importing industry and will be applied onshore to importers who use the biosecurity system.

Minister McKenzie “If ASF gets in it could decimate our pork industry that contributes A$5.2 (£2.7bn) to our 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. We export 70% 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.”

Measures funded through the response package include:

  • 130 more frontline biosecurity officers who will start to be deployed from January to do half a million more passenger screenings a year;
  • 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;
  • Biosecurity officers will have a new capability to issue infringement notices on the spot at airports;
  • A new biosecurity squad will be established onshore to check products brought into Australia for sale aren’t fraudulently labelled; and
  • Zoning arrangements will be developed to help support continued market access for our pork producers should the unthinkable happen and ASF reaches a part of Australia.

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