Concerns are rife about the possibility of an African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak in Australia, as the disease sweeps the globe. ASF is a highly contagious viral disease which has serious effects on herds of domestic and wild pigs. There are yet to be any instances of ASF in Australia, however in recent months the disease has been discovered in countries across parts of Africa, Europe and most of Asia. In China the pig herd is predicted to be halved by the end of 2019 as a result of ASF. An outbreak in Australia would have a significant negative effect on national pig production, generating broader economic impacts, estimated to potentially cost the Australian economy $50 billion.
To address the issue Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has convened a roundtable of industry experts. The National Farmers Federation has called on the government to follow through with their proposed levy system. The levy would be imposed on shipping freight to help fund screening and detection for exotic diseases. However, the government has already deferred the induction over two set commencement dates. An additional biosecurity challenge is presented by the decrease in the numbers of sniffer dogs present in airports, seaports, courier depots and mail centres. In the last six years the numbers have decreased by 50 per cent. This is significant as sniffer dogs were responsible for over half of meat product detections at Australian borders last year. However, Senator McKenzie has expressed that biosecurity checks for ASF have been increased to mitigate against the risk of an outbreak. Overall, the global spread of ASF has emphasised the importance of upholding strict biosecurity requirements.