Pork producers are being urged to be on high alert as an introduction of African Swine Fever to Australia would be “devastating”. (Photo: File)
Pork producers are being urged to be on high alert as an introduction of African Swine Fever to Australia would be “devastating”. (Photo: File)

New virus ‘would absolutely devastate’, say pork producers

"THE deadly virus would absolutely devastate Australia's pork industry if it arrived here."

This is why Australian Pork Limited CEO Margo Andrae is calling on Australian pork producers to remain on alert for African swine fever.

As Kingaroy's Swickers Bacon Factory processes more than 90 per cent of the pigs in Queensland and is one of the South Burnett's biggest employers, the region would be hit hard if the virus made its way to Australia.

The deadly virus has caused the death of hundreds of pigs in Papua New Guinea.

PNG officials confirmed samples from the affected Southern Highlands pigs were sent to Australia and returned positive for ASF.

They are now investigating how the virus spread to the region, including the possibility of transmission through imported canned food.

Australian Pork's chief executive officer, Margo Andrae.
Australian Pork's chief executive officer, Margo Andrae.

Ms Andrae said the detection of ASF in PNG reinforced the importance of the ongoing ASF mitigation work between the pork industry, government and other stakeholders.

She said while ASF did not pose human health risks it could become devastating for the pork industry, with a potential national economic impact of more than $2 billion.

"There is no cure for ASF and millions of Australian pigs would be at risk if the disease reached our country," Ms Andrae said.

"That would devastate pork producers and Australian fresh pork supplies and seriously jeopardise the wellbeing of the 36,000 Australians employed in our industry."

She said ASF represented potentially the biggest animal disease event the world has ever seen and has already killed hundreds of millions of pigs across Asia and Europe.

"ASF is now confirmed in PNG, Indonesia and Timor Leste and we're concerned about its potential spread to the Pacific region," Ms Andrae said.

"This battle is being fought across international borders and we welcome the Federal Government's offer this week to assist PNG to contain the virus."

Despite current travel restrictions, international postal services remain operational.

Two new 3D X-ray machines have been installed at the Sydney and Melbourne mail centres, as part of the Federal Government's $66.6 million ASF response package.

"Biosecurity measures in the Torres Strait have been strengthened as a result of COVID-19 and the government is further reviewing those measures to reflect the risk ASF in PNG poses to Australia," Ms Andrae said.

She said Australia could not afford any weak links in its defence against ASF.

"All aspects of monitoring at the border are critical, but so is the work by producers to strengthen on-farm biosecurity and the cross-agency collaboration being led by National Feral Pig Management co-ordinator, Dr Heather Channon," she said.