Serious agriculture diseases including ASF and FMD intercepted at international mail centres

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
Email Jenne Brammer
Australia's pork industry could be decimated by ASF.
Camera IconAustralia's pork industry could be decimated by ASF. Credit: Supplied by Australian Pork

COVID-19 travel restrictions have curbed the number of food products containing serious agricultural diseases being brought into Australia by incoming passengers.

But high risk products are still being intercepted at international mail centres, including Perth.

African swine fever and foot and mouth disease virus fragments were detected in multiple pork products seized at international mail centres in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, the Federal Government has revealed.

Nearly 200 pork products were seized over periods in December, January and February, with 24 per cent testing positive positive for ASF virus fragments and one per cent testing for FMD virus fragments.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the products posed significant risk to Australia.

FMD was considered the biggest animal disease threat to Australia’s agriculture, he said.

The highly contagious viral disease affects cloven-hoofed animals including buffalo, pigs, cattle, sheep, deer, camelids and goats. FMD is capable of rapid spread. Cattle are most susceptible, though pigs spread the disease fastest.

“An outbreak of FMD in Australia would lead to the closure of major livestock, beef, lamb, dairy and pork export markets with serious economic and social effects in other sectors, including tourism,” Mr Littleproud said.

He said studies had estimated a large multi-state outbreak of FMD in Australia could result in economic losses of $50 billion dollars over 10 years.

An outbreak of ASF, a highly contagious viral disease that affects pigs resulting in a very high mortality rate, could cost Australia $1.5b to $2.03b over five years.

Detection and interception of the products does not change Australia’s FMD or ASF-free status.

The Federal Government also said biosecurity officers and detector dogs intercepted two packages with plants that are known hosts of xylella fastidiosa, Australia’s number one priority plant pest, at the Sydney Mail Centre.

“Xylella is a high priority pest for 10 industries, including cherries, citrus, tree nuts, production nurseries, summerfruit, viticulture. It can also impact significantly on a wide range of native plants,” Mr Littleproud said.

“It has destroyed priceless olive tree groves in Italy that are centuries old and is known to infect more than 350 plant species in 89 plant families.

“The bacteria kills plants by damaging the water conducting system in plants, which appears as leaf scorching.

“According to ABARES, an incursion could cost our wine grape and wine-making industries up to $7.9b over 50 years.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails