Fears rise as African swine fever hits Papua New Guinea

By Country News

African swine fever has now been reported in Papua New Guinea, killing hundreds of pigs in the Southern Highlands.

Australian Pork Limited chief executive officer Margo Andrae said the potential national economic impact from ASF reaching Australia was estimated to be more than $2 billion.

“There is no cure for ASF and millions of Australian pigs would be at risk if the disease reached our country,” she said.

“That would devastate pork producers and Australian fresh pork supplies and seriously jeopardise the wellbeing of the 36 000 Australians employed in our industry.”

Biosecurity inspector-general Rob Delane released a report on March 23 reviewing the adequacy of border measures to manage African swine fever.

Ms Andrae said a recommendation in the report was the inclusion of additional criteria in risk assessment for flights from ASF-affected countries, including a focus on seasonal farm workers.

Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said Australia's biosecurity was critical now more than ever.

“By July we will have six new detector dogs working to protect our borders and we are also bringing in an additional 130 extra front-line biosecurity officers,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The ASF-response package will also install two new 3D x-ray machines at the Sydney and Melbourne mail centres.

“This is a world-first biosecurity innovation that allows us to automatically detect risk items.”

NSW Farmers Pork Committee chair Ean Pollard said the virus had a death rate of more than 80 per cent in infected pigs.

“It is critical that ASF stays out of Australia, especially at this crucial time, when Australia is already fighting a human health crisis and we need to maintain fresh food supplies,” Mr Pollard said.

VFF Pigs Group president Tim Kingma said it was already a difficult time, as farmers try to manage the coronavirus.

“With COVID-19, essential services that we need are closing down and Agriculture Victoria has closed their pig services centre,” Mr Kingma said.

“Online shopping also poses a massive risk, with people sending pork products in the mail.”

Precautions taken to prevent African swine fever on Mr Kingma's farm include limiting the opportunities for feral pigs to enter the property and avoiding pork products.