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Foot and Mouth Disease - Australia's Biggest Biosecurity Risk

14 October 2013

AUSTRALIA - A new report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) puts the cost of a large foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in Australia at more than $50 billion over 10 years.

Acting Executive Director, ABARES, Dr Kim Ritman, said producers of beef, sheep, dairy and wool would be devastated by such a large FMD outbreak.

“All red meat, live animal and livestock product exports to most major trading partners would stop until the disease was eradicated and market access could be renegotiated,” Dr Ritman said.

Dr Ritman noted this could be a lengthy process, pointing to the experiences of other countries with disease outbreaks and Australia’s own challenges in opening new export markets.

“It could take several years before we could get our product back into our major export markets,” Dr Ritman said

Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, said the ABARES report served as a timely reminder about the importance of maintaining an effective biosecurity system in Australia.

“Australia has a comprehensive biosecurity system designed to keep diseases such as FMD out of the country,” Dr Schipp said.

“We have stringent controls at the border and we do quite a lot of work with our near neighbours in south-east Asia to minimise the risk of it getting in.”

Dr Schipp explained that plans are in place to ensure that, in the unlikely event that the disease did get into the country, it would be eradicated as quickly as possible.

“This involves the Australian Government working closely with the states and territories as well as with industry to ensure we’re prepared and respond rapidly,” Dr Schipp said.

The ABARES report assesses the economic and social impacts under a few FMD outbreak scenarios and shows that while still very costly, a small outbreak that is identified and eradicated quickly is not as devastating for producers and rural communities.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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