Two billion reasons to keep Australia ASF free

Senator the Hon Murray Watt
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

A new economic analysis is a timely reminder of the risks diseases like African swine fever (ASF), which is right on our doorstep, would have on our agricultural industry.

ASF is a contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs that has established itself in Asia and parts of Europe and continues to spread.

ASF has no vaccine and kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects but poses no threat to human health.

Australia could be on the hook for as much as $2.54 billion if ASF became endemic in Australia’s feral pig population, according to scenario analysis by ABARES.

In early 2022, it was estimated that there is 21% chance of an African Swine Fever detection in Australia in the next five years.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said the report was a timely reminder of the importance of keeping Australia’s biosecurity system strong.

“We’ve seen from ABARES the potentially devastating cost of an outbreak of ASF in this country,” Minister Watt said.

“While Australia is free of ASF, this work underscores the importance of our biosecurity system and why it needs to be resourced appropriately.

“A small-scale outbreak in domestic pigs would cost the Australian pig industry between $117 million and $263 million to manage and eradicate.

“The worst-case scenario, where ASF becomes endemic in our feral pig population, would cost the industry between $439 million and $2.54 billion over 30 years.

“This would mean lost trade for our exports and higher costs for farmers as they manage biosecurity.”

Minister Watt said these were sobering figures.

“This just reminds us that while we are ASF free, we can’t be complacent when it comes to biosecurity.

“This government is committed to protecting Australia from pest and disease incursions which is why we allocated $134 million in funding in the last budget to bolster Australia’s biosecurity system.

“And, for the first time in Australia’s history, the Albanese Government is developing a model for sustainable biosecurity funding to make sure we are maintaining strong biosecurity way into the future.

“We’re also working with our near neighbours to minimise disease entry into Australia, and we regularly screen and test meat and animal products at the border.

“This report gives us the cost of letting our guard down, and the Albanese Government is determined that this will not happen on our watch.”

Australian Pork Limited Chief Executive Officer Margo Andrae today welcomed the Government’s ongoing commitment to protecting not only the Australian pork industry, but the broader agricultural community from the threat of African Swine Fever.

“Our Australian Pork industry feeds Australian families with ninety percent of our production staying here at home and an ASF breach would severely impact our ability to contribute to food security for Australians.

“Our producers are already working hard to protect their farms and this current understanding of the ongoing impacts of the disease threat is paramount.

“This ABARES analysis supports the ongoing combined industry and government preparedness.”

The ABARES report Potential economic consequences of African Swine Fever in Australia can be read here:

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