Biosecurity border ban to curb Foot and Mouth Disease ‘drastic’, farmers say

Calls to slam the border shut with one of Australia’s biggest trade partners amid an outbreak of foot and mouth disease have been branded “drastic” by a farming body.
Opposition MPs Barnaby Joyce and Karen Andrews said the government should move quickly to shut Australia’s border to arrivals from Indonesia.
While the nation remains free of the livestock disease, it has been detected in popular tourist destination Bali.

The government must do whatever it takes to guarantee foot and mouth disease does not enter the nation, Ms Andrews said.

“Labor needs to be doing much more than it already is to prevent that disease coming into Australia,” Ms Andrews told Sky News on Thursday. “This is a race and Labor is barely out of the starting blocks.”
But closing the borders would be a “very drastic step”, Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano told AAP.
“We rely on this bilateral trade between the two countries, and I don’t know how you would justify doing that to Indonesia when foot and mouth is endemic in other countries,” she said.

“There would be an economic impact and we want to ensure we keep trade open. “It’s vital Australians understand what’s at stake, and the need to be hyper-vigilant about what food products they bring back.”

Foot and Mouth Disease detected in meat products in Australia

Viral fragments of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and African swine fever have been detected in pork products at a Melbourne retailer.
Australia remains free of the diseases as the live virus was not detected, but Agriculture Minister Murray Watt reiterated the importance of biosecurity measures.
The products, believed to be imported from China, were detected in the Melbourne CBD as part of routine surveillance and have been seized. It’s the first time viral fragments have been detected in a retail setting, Senator Watt said.
“This is not the first time in Australian history that we have picked up Foot and Mouth Disease viral fragments in meat products – it’s happened a number of other times in airport settings,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

Further investigations about how the products entered Australia was being taken, and it was likely prosecutions would occur, Senator Watt said.

Preventive measures

“If you do the wrong thing, you will be caught. If you try to bring products into the country without declaring them you will be caught,” he said. “If you try to bring or post products into the country, you will be caught and we will take action.”
Sanitation mats will be rolled out at international airports in an effort to stop FMD from entering Australia on traveller’s shoes.

It’s the latest measure by the federal government to prevent an outbreak of the livestock disease on Australian shores.

‘No silver bullet when it comes to biosecurity’

Indonesia has been grappling with the spread of the disease, which was recently detected in Bali, a popular holiday destination for Australian travellers.
If allowed to spread in Australia, the disease is predicted to cause an $80 billion hit to the economy over ten years. Senator Watt said the mats would add another layer of defence against an outbreak.
But Australians returning from the region should still clean their shoes and clothing or leave their footwear overseas if possible, he said. “There’s no silver bullet when it comes to biosecurity; none of these measures will work on their own,” Senator Watt said.
“It is a shared responsibility and again, we do need people to take their share of responsibility.”

The mats will be rolled out this week, starting at Darwin and Cairns airports. They are intended to be a physical reminder to travellers about the risk of the disease, Senator Watt said.

How do the mats work?

Travellers arriving in Australia from Indonesia will be asked to walk across the mats to sanitise their shoes. The mats contain a citric acid solution designed to dislodge any dirt from the sole of the shoe and cover it in the acid.
Other biosecurity measures include passenger declarations, profiling of all travellers entering from Indonesia, real-time risk assessments, questioning and shoe cleaning.
A $14 million biosecurity package was announced by the government last week for more frontline defences in airports and mail centres as well as support for Indonesia and neighbouring countries to combat the spread.

Senator Watt is set to meet with his state and territory counterparts for the first joint meeting in eight months to discuss further measures.

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