Australia on high alert as African swine fever hits PNG

Pork industry alert: African swine fever hits PNG

Agribusiness
Pork producers say biosecurity is essential in stopping African swine fever from reaching Australia.

Pork producers say biosecurity is essential in stopping African swine fever from reaching Australia.

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Pork producers say biosecurity is essential in stopping African swine fever from reaching Australia.

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AUSTRALIAN pork producers are on high alert after confirmation the deadly virus African swine fever is now present in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

PNG officials, who confirmed that samples from the affected Southern Highlands pigs were sent to Australia and returned positive for ASF, are now investigating how the virus spread to the region. These investigations include the possibility of transmission via imported canned food products.

Hundreds of PNG pigs have understood to have died in the outbreak.

The economic impact of an outbreak of ASF in Australia is calculated to be more than $2 billion.

Australian Pork Ltd chief executive officer Margo Andrae said while ASF did not pose human health risks, millions of Australian pigs were at risk.

"ASF would devastate pork producers and Australian fresh pork supplies and seriously jeopardise the wellbeing of the 36,000 Australians employed in our industry," Ms Andrae said.

ASF is considered potentially the biggest animal disease event the world has ever seen, having already killed hundreds of millions of pigs across Asia and Europe.

"ASF is now confirmed in PNG, Indonesia and Timor Leste and we're concerned about its potential spread to the Pacific region," she said.

ASF is now confirmed in PNG, Indonesia and Timor Leste and we're concerned about its potential spread to the Pacific region. - Margo Andrae, Australian Pork Ltd

"This battle is being fought across international borders and we welcome the Federal Government's offer this week to assist PNG to contain the virus.

"Even with current travel restrictions, there's no room for complacency in terms of ASF, especially given international postal services remain operational."

Ms Andrae said the installation of two 3D x-ray machines at the Sydney and Melbourne mail centres, as part of the Federal Government's $66.6 million ASF-response package, were important parts of Australia's defence.

She said biosecurity measures in the Torres Strait had been strengthened as a result of COVID-19 and the government was further reviewing those measures to reflect the risk ASF in PNG posed to Australia.

Confirmation of ASF in PNG coincided with the Inspector-General of Biosecurity's release of the updated report on the adequacy of preventative border measures to mitigate the risk of ASF.

"A timely recommendation in the report is the inclusion of additional criteria in risk assessment for flights from ASF-affected countries, including a focus on seasonal farm workers," Ms Andrae said.

"We can't afford any weak links in our defence against ASF. All aspects of monitoring at the border are critical, but so is the work by producers to strengthen on-farm biosecurity and the cross-agency collaboration being led by National Feral Pig Management coordinator Dr Heather Channon."

CLICK HERE to read the IGB report.

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