Shepparton News - Country News

Lucky catch reveals weakness

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Traces of foot and mouth disease and African swine fever found in intercepte­d parcels of illegally imported pork have exposed just how easily a devastatin­g disease could enter Australia if biosecurit­y systems are not improved, according to the National Farmers’ Federation.

“Fortunatel­y, in this instance the offending products were detected at the border, however, all it takes is one missed parcel to put the productivi­ty, profitabil­ity and ultimately market access of Australian farmers at serious risk,” NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said.

He said there was little doubt Australian agricultur­e remained perilously exposed to a pest or disease incursion as biosecurit­y systems became increasing­ly dated and continued to go underfunde­d.

“The importatio­n of new pests and diseases has the potential to bring many agricultur­al industries to their knees, not only hurting farmers and communitie­s but the economy as a whole,” Mr Mahar said.

“Biosecurit­y is key to controllin­g domestic weeds and pests and crucially, maintainin­g and expanding our export markets.

“The cost of a single outbreak of disease or pest has been conservati­vely estimated to exceed $50 billion.”

The NFF said last year, the Federal Government failed to implement a biosecurit­y imports levy as recommende­d by the Biosecurit­y Levy Steering Committee.

Ahead of this year’s federal budget, the NFF is asking the government to direct $400 million over four years towards a much-needed expansion and modernisat­ion of Australia’s biosecurit­y systems.

“The commitment would ensure adequate long-term funding for the national biosecurit­y system, targeting risk-creating activities and communicat­ion to give our trading partners confidence in Australia’s pest and disease-free status,” Mr Mahar said.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrat­ed the wrecking ball effect a biosecurit­y outbreak can have.”

The NFF also makes the case for new funding for the developmen­t of a long-term trade strategy; climate change research; the implementa­tion of the National Agricultur­e Workforce Strategy; and a renaissanc­e of regional food and fibre manufactur­ing.

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