Blue tongue virus exclusion zone blow to exports
Pastoralists in northern WA already struggling under the burden of red tape have a new barrier to trade after the blue tongue virus exclusion zone was expanded to Broome Port.
Six additional Kimberley properties now fall within the zone, which runs across the top of the Northern Territory, Queensland and WA, after the virus was detected recently in the region’s west.
The buffer zone previously ended 100km east of Broome but now includes the port town and stretches 140km south.
Although there have been no exports out of Broome in the past 12 months to countries that require cattle to have been held in a blue tongue virus-free zone for 60 days — a list that includes China, Turkey and Israel — the body representing Kimberley pastoralists is unhappy with what they see as loss of flexibility in accessing markets.
Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association chairman David Stoate said the impact might seem relatively minor but for the industry but it was good to be able to access as many markets as it could.
“China is sensitive to blue tongue, so it would make it hard (now) to access that market from here,” he said.
Mr Stoate said pastoralists in the Kimberley used to be able to leave cattle at the Roebuck Depot, which was until now outside the virus exclusion zone, for 60 days before export.
“When the Indonesian ban happened, it became important,” he said. “We can still access those markets, it just won’t be through Broome.”
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development animal disease surveillance manager Marion Seymour said stations affected by the zone change could still export, provided they met the proper requirements.
“The zone change will remain until two years of surveillance indicates the virus is no longer being transmitted within this area,” she said.
Ms Seymour said one positive of the monitoring was that the regular sampling of animals provided a clear picture of where the virus was.