More funding is needed to help control feral pigs in Australia, as they pose a significant threat to the pork industry.
Australian Pork chief Margo Andrae has told a Senate inquiry the risk comes from the ability of feral hogs to pass disease on to domestic pigs.
She said the spread of African swine fever — which has seen 30 per cent of global pig populations die — would be devastating.
“The feral pig herd poses a great threat to the Australian natural environment, native wildlife and is a significant threat to Australian agriculture and has been for many decades,” she said.
“For producers and employers the lasting financial, social and emotional devastation will be akin to the worst kind of natural disaster.”
A new Australian Pork report has found feral pigs are second only to rabbits in terms of economic impact as an invasive species in Australia.
National feral pig management co-ordinator Heather Channon said 70 per cent of feral pigs needed to be culled annually to keep the population size from expanding.
“Feral pigs are one of the most destructive invasive species in Australia, with an estimated national population of up to 24 million, spread across 45 per cent of the country or some 3.43 million square kilometres,” she said.
“This report confirms that even conservative modelling indicates that feral pigs cause more than $100 million in direct economic costs to the agricultural sector each year.”
Dr Channon is developing a national action plan for feral pig management, which is due for completion by the end of January.
She said more co-ordination was needed between the numerous groups doing separate work, including increased funding and a national database.
As part of the Senate inquiry into the impact of feral deer, pigs and goats, a public hearing on was held in Canberra on July 22.