FMD risk new export concern

Melissa WilliamsCountryman
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Australia's live export sector is closely monitoring reports coming out of Indonesia that it is considering alternative supplier countries for live cattle, including Brazil and India, that are known to have foot and mouth disease (FMD).

This would be another blow to the nation's red meat industry, which is already grappling with a decision by the Indonesian government to effectively halve the import quota for live cattle and boxed beef from Australia during the past 12 months and impose a 5 per cent import tariff on all Australian cattle.

It also emerged last week that Indonesia had demanded a pedigree certificate for at least one consignment of Australian breeder cattle. At the end of last week these animals had not been released to Indonesian importers by local authorities.

The Australian Government has not been notified of any changes to Indonesia's requirements for information about pedigrees of imported breeder cattle.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the Government did not certify the pedigree of breeder cattle for the Indonesian market and these were direct commercial matters.

In Federal Parliament last week, WA Liberal Senator Chris Back called on Senator Ludwig to clarify reports that Indonesian Government ministers were intending to allow imports of beef and buffalo meat from so-called FMD-free zones in affected countries, such as Brazil and India where cattle herds were endemic for FMD.

He asked the minister what measures were being taken to prevent such action, given the high biosecurity risk of FMD, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and meat-borne diseases that affected humans reaching Indonesia and possibly Australia.

Dr Back said Indonesian Government ministers had indicated they would seek to import beef from Brazil, which had some areas of so-called FMD-free zones.

"But we know that the leakage of movement of live cattle from FMD zones into zones which are FMD-free are very wide and loose," he said.

"I repeat the fear which has been expressed by the veterinary profession, and throughout the community, that if we end up accepting beef from those countries into Indonesia those diseases will return to Indonesia.

"And with our porous borders, we will end up with them in Australia."

Senator Ludwig said the Government's live export reforms placed animal welfare at the heart of the trade and provided the supply chain with a range of support for the control of animals that left Australia for foreign markets.

"We have a system in place that identifies us, to ensure that we have secure supply chains," he said.

Australian Live Exporters' Council chief executive Alison Penfold said exporters were closely monitoring the latest reports from Indonesia that officials were considering legislative changes to allow the country's cattle importers to bring in stock from FMD-free regions of countries such as Brazil and India.

She said these reports were unconfirmed at an official level, but if correct were a big concern to the Australian live export sector and national red meat industry.

"We understand Brazil is lobbying Indonesia to have capacity to import its live cattle from regions free of FMD," she said.

"We are trying to confirm and clarify what we have been able to ascertain from the Indonesian press."

Ms Penfold said aside from trade implications, any move by Indonesia to take stock from countries with FMD presented a major biosecurity threat to Australia.

"We don't want FMD in our region, especially in Indonesia, which is striving for self-sufficiency in beef production," she said.

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