The National Farmers’ Federation is calling on the Federal Government to immediately “step up Australia’s defence” against foot and mouth disease after Indonesian authorities confirmed it had been detected in Bali.
News of cases in the tourist hotspot broke on Monday, prompting the NFF to release a statement expressing its “extreme concern”.
With the highly infectious livestock disease now a step closer to Australia’s doorstep, NFF president Fiona Simson also called on Australian travellers to take extra precautions.
“The news that FMD has reached Bali has sent a shiver up the spine of Australian farmers, as the risk of it reaching our shores has undoubtedly grown,” she said.
“The Australian Government must undertake rapid risk analysis to ensure our prevention measures are equal to this new level of risk.”
With international borders finally open and travel returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, Australia has recorded nearly 574,000 arrivals and 607,000 departures in April alone, according to the Australian Bureau of statistics.
In 2019, about 1.2m Australians visited Indonesia.
The NFF urged travellers to be on high alert to ensure the “devastating” disease did not spread to Australia.
This included declaring any farm visits or contact with animals in infected countries upon arrival in Australia, and ensuring all footwear, clothing and equipment was free of mud, animal manure and mucus.
“Australians have done the right thing through COVID, taking precautions to stop the spread,” Ms Simson said.
“Our farmers now need travellers to treat the threat of FMD with the same amount of caution.”
FMD has been running rampant throughout Indonesia since early May and has now spread to 22 provinces, with more than 230,000 confirmed cases.
The NFF said the Federal Government must continue supporting Indonesia, as one of Australia’s closest trading partners, to control the spread and protect Australia’s agriculture industries.
Recent modelling by the Federal Government’s commodity forecaster ABARES indicated an outbreak of FMD would cost Australia revenue losses of up to $80b over 10 years.
Australia’s agricultural industry exports about two-thirds of what it produces, with market access underpinning the nation’s strong commodity prices in recent years.
An FMD outbreak in Australia would see meat and livestock export industries frozen overnight and create flow-on effects in other sectors, including grain.
“Our ability to produce food and fibre for Australians and the world would take a major blow, which is why biosecurity is important to every single person,” Ms Simson said.
“We urge travellers to be patient and work with authorities, who we hope will be taking every step to minimise risk at our borders.”
FMD is a viral disease affecting all cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, sheep and pigs.
It can be carried on live animals as well as in meat, dairy products, soil, vehicles and equipment, clothing and footwear.