Farmers welcome biosecurity boost

NSW Farmers has welcomed the Australian Government’s focus on improving the national biosecurity system, including the establishment of a Biosecurity Futures group and increased screening operations at entry points.

Biosecurity Committee chair Ian McColl said the Government has responded to the threat of African swine fever and other pests and diseases by consulting with industry, increasing surveillance, and demonstrating agile detection of biosecurity risk.

“The Biosecurity Futures group, comprised of industry representatives and tasked with advising the Minister for Agriculture on biosecurity issues, delivers on a recommendation from the independent review of the capacity of the National biosecurity system,” Mr McColl said.

“However, agricultural and environmental groups are still waiting for Federal Government to introduce another of the report’s recommendations – a long-promised biosecurity levy on sea imports.”

“It’s critical that we have long-term, sustainable funding for biosecurity, with costs shared across system participants. Progress on this levy has stalled significantly, and NSW Farmers calls on the Australian Government to prioritise its implementation.”

The Department of Agriculture has released the results of Operation Conway, which screened passengers and crew from identified flights for pork products and other biosecurity risk material. Of the pork products seized during the operation, 22 per cent tested positive for African swine fever.

“It’s concerning that people are still trying to bring meat into Australia, and that some visitors and residents aren’t correctly filling out their declaration forms,” Mr McColl said.

Mr McColl said the results of the testing showed the threat of African swine fever at our borders is very real, and that governments needed to continue to be vigilant in identifying and managing biosecurity risk material.

“We’ve welcomed the Australian Government’s tough line on illegal imports of meat, with a number of visitors having their visa cancelled for failing to declare meat products in their luggage.

“Long-term funding for biosecurity, investment on high-risk pathways and cost sharing mechanisms are three key components for government focus to further reduce the risk of pests and diseases threatening our agricultural industries.”

Mr McColl said travelers and the public have a crucial role to play in protection Australia’s biosecurity.

“Travelers should take care not to bring back meat from overseas trips, and residents are advised not to order meat online from overseas.”

Serious penalties apply – international visitors who bring undeclared high risk items like pork from African swine fever affected countries can be sent back home, and can have their visas cancelled for up to three years.

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