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Virus could cripple our $80b livestock industry overnight, says minister


A single case of foot and mouth disease could halt Australia’s export industry overnight, the agriculture minister has warned.

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Murray Watt on Wednesday announced further biosecurity measures after viral fragments of the disease and African swine fever were detected in pork products, believed to be imported from China, at a Melbourne retailer.

While Australia remains free of foot and mouth disease, it has recently been detected in popular tourist destination Bali as Indonesia grapples with its spread.

Watt said an immediate three-day standstill on livestock movements would be implemented if the disease were to reach Australia.

“The reason this would be such a devastating blow is that the rest of the world would treat Australia as having foot and mouth disease, which would pretty much shut down our livestock export industry overnight,” he told the ABC.

“But there is a comprehensive plan that’s been developed over a number of years between federal and state governments about how we manage outbreaks … (including) movement controls.”

A compensation scheme would also be put in place, the minister said.

“But as much as we are thinking about what we would do if the outbreak gets here, my number one focus at the moment is making sure it never gets here,” Watt said.

“I feel very confident that Australia’s world-leading biosecurity system stands us in very good stead to resist this outbreak arriving.”

The latest measure involves sanitation mats will be rolled out at international airports in an effort to stop foot and mouth disease entering Australia on travellers’ shoes.

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