Biosecurity incursions are one of Queensland’s greatest risks with exotic pests, diseases and weeds having a potentially crippling impact on and plant and animal production systems and animal and human health and wellbeing across the state. While Australia’s island status limits the risks from exotic pests and diseases, it does not eliminate them the threat altogether. As the movement of people and goods around the globe increases, accompanying by a changing climate, the number of biosecurity incursions is unfortunately increasing.
While dealing with the current COVID-19 human biosecurity emergency, Queensland pork producers continue to be watchful for their next potential challenge, African Swine Fever (ASF). The highly infectious and contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs has recently been detected in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where reported pig deaths due to ASF range from 300 to 1,500. 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.
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. With eight visa cancellations since 1 October 2019 related to a failure to declare pork and pork products, increased interventions are now in application for all flights from PNG into Australia. So, 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. Particularly following the detections of fall army worm in PNG to as far south as Bundaberg in little over a month.
While PNG’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 continuation of effective government, public and industry partnerships is critical to maintaining our relative pest, disease and weed freedom. We must maintain vigilance and remind everyone that they have a general biosecurity obligation and a role to play in this fight.