Livestock

African swine fever spreads to Indonesia

By Jamie Salter

Fears African swine fever will reach Australia have risen after it was recently detected in Indonesia.

Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said she was concerned, as Indonesia was a popular destination for Australian tourists.

“There are about 188 flights a week from Indonesia direct into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin,” Senator McKenzie said.

“Our government has already responded to this global disease threat — to safeguard the 36 000 jobs that rely on our pork industry and to protect Australia’s international trade, built on our reputation for producing safe food and fibre.

“Our government foresaw the threat this disease posed and just last week (December 11) I announced an extra $66.6 million to put 130 more biosecurity officers at our airports to do half a million more passenger screenings and deploy an extra six detector dogs.”

Senator McKenzie said the agriculture department had increased the risk status of flights from Indonesia.

Biosecurity measures have increased and those entering Australia must declare food products and clothing items.

“In less than a year we’ve seized 32 tonnes of pork from air travellers and recent testing showed that about 50 per cent of seized product contained African swine fever,” Senator McKenzie said.

African swine fever has no vaccine and kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects.

The disease can survive for long periods in uncooked, frozen or cured pig-meat products and can be carried through clothing items.
 
VFF Pig Group president Tim Kingma said African swine fever was one step closer to entering Australia.
 
"We can't guarantee anything but I think the government is putting in a lot of changes to prevent it from coming in,” Mr Kingma said.
 
"They're taking it very seriously but we could always do more, the gold standard would be to check every single bag, but that won't be done."
 
The government has brought in laws to ban those who bring in food illegally from Australia and Mr Kingma said the next step was to educate people overseas to prevent sending products into Australia.
 
"I now tell my staff not to bring back any food or clothing that they take overseas, and won't let them return to the farm for a week after they return,” Mr Kingma said.
 
"If swine fever came into Australia it would be devastating for our community, who are already dealing with drought."