Biosecurity incursions are one of Queensland agriculture’s greatest business risks with exotic pests, diseases and weeds having a potentially crippling impact on plant and animal production systems across the state. Australia’s island status protects the country from exotic pests and diseases to a certain extent. But as the movement of people and goods around the globe increases this advantage is rapidly being lost and the threat of biosecurity incursions intensifying.
Following years of trying conditions, Queensland pork producers are bracing for their next challenge, African Swine Fever (ASF). The highly infectious and contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs is currently spreading through Europe and Asia. While it does not pose a health risk to humans, it is usually fatal among infected pigs and has the potential to disrupt the world protein market for years. After being reported for the first time in August 2018, China’s pig herd had declined 32 per cent by July 2019. While Asia’s pig industry is structured differently to Australia’s and our pork producers are among the most biosecure in the world, it could cause devastating economic losses for Australia’s pork industry if it got through our borders.
The most significant risk of entry of ASF into Australia is through illegally imported contaminated pork products that are swill fed to domestic pigs or accessed by feral pigs. And with more than 350,000 items of biosecurity concern intercepted across the country in 2018, it is imperative that all Australians and visitors adhere to biosecurity requirements both on-farm and in general and report suspected breaches to Biosecurity Queensland immediately.
Queensland remains Australia’s frontline biosecurity state, which means we will continue to receive more than our fair share of incursions. Effective government, public and industry partnerships are critical to maintaining our relative pest, disease and weed freedom. And with the number of biosecurity interceptions showing no sign of reducing, we must maintain vigilance and continue to remind everyone that they have a general biosecurity obligation and a role to play.