The Australian Government has stepped up its biosecurity defense against the global advance of African swine fever, adding $66.6 million to biosecurity funding.
Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, says the government's focus is 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.
"If this disease gets in it could decimate our pork industry that contributes $5.2 billion to our farmers' hip pockets, regional economies and the nation's bottom line," McKenzie says. "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 fiber – 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 ASF Response Package:
- 130 more frontline biosecurity officers will start to be deployed from January 2020 to do half a million more passenger screenings a year
- Six new detector dogs to be deployed at airports and mail centers by July 2020
- Two new 3D x-ray machines at Melbourne and Sydney mail centers 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 labeled
- 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
"While our efforts are focused on meeting the ASF threat now, there are many other pests and diseases that could hurt our agricultural sector, our human health and our unique environment if they get past our borders," McKenzie says. "The task of maintaining biosecurity is growing and resourcing is not keeping pace. In the past nine years international passenger numbers have increased by 60%, shipping cargo has increased by 30% and international mail items have increased by 170% – and we expect that growth to continue.
"The government is also proceeding with a biosecurity levy, in line with our commitment made in May 2018 and will legislate it next year. 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."