A large outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia would cost the nation’s economy $30 billion more than previously estimated, new modelling by the Federal Government’s commodity forecaster has revealed. A major incursion of the devastating livestock disease — which is running rampant in Indonesia — would cause revenue losses of $80b over 10 years according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences. The sobering assessment was contained in ABARES’ June quarter Agricultural Commodities Report, released last Tuesday. “ABARES modelling from 2013 has been updated and determined that a large multi-State outbreak of FMD in Australia could cost more than $80b,” the report stated. The 2013 modelling — which took into account economic costs and disease control and management — had the figure set at between $49.3b and $51.8b. Disease control strategies examined included the destruction and disposal of animals with and without extensive or targeted vaccinations. FMD is a highly contagious viral infection of cloven hoofed mammals, including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer and camels. An outbreak in Australia would trigger trade bans that would see live animal and meat exports frozen overnight in a bid to stem the spread of the disease. “For large exporters like Australia, this would most likely result in affected meat products being diverted to the domestic market (as the meat is safe for human consumption) with a consequent reduction in product prices and financial returns to producers,” ABARES’ 2013 report stated. “Overseas experience shows the disease has serious economic and social implications, particularly for countries producing and exporting livestock and livestock products.” State and Federal governments have been working closely with Australia’s livestock industries and Indonesian authorities to prevent an incursion of FMD. FMD was detected in early May in East Java and has since spread to Sumatra, with more than 3500 confirmed cases across Indonesia. “(FMD) would be extremely disruptive to Australia’s livestock industry,” an ABARES spokesperson said. “It is essential that government and industry are prepared to combat an incursion.” Experts have called for further research to understand the role Australia’s large feral pig population could play in spreading FMD in the event of an outbreak.