Big risks on our boarders

By Hugh Christie on
14 March 2023

The recent news out of Canberra that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is set to operate at a loss of $31.2m is concerning for the future of Australia's agricultural industry.

The department delivers crucial agricultural programs and in particular biosecurity services nationally. If the government fails to maintain its focus on biosecurity, it could risk the nation's food supply, trade, and farm production.

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As an island nation, Australia's biosecurity practices must be first onshore and then at the border to keep the country free from invasive species. Maintaining our pest-free status is essential in achieving our goal of $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030. The department is responsible for protecting Australia's multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry, which is crucial to the economy and the cost of living for Australian households.

In the words of Minister Watt regarding the National Biosecurity Strategy "the risks we’re facing are closer and more threatening than ever before. This has never been clearer than current efforts to combat foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in neighbouring countries." For instance, the spread of foot and mouth disease in Australia would have a catastrophic impact on the economy and the cost of living for Australian households.

The Australian dairy industry is just one example of the potential impact of a biosecurity breach. Dairy products are a staple in 97% of Australian households, and if foot and mouth disease were to spread, it would not only hurt farmers but also put pressure on the economy and the cost of living for Australian households.

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It could lead to a reduction in the commercial yield from cattle locally and damage or destroy a billion-dollar export market. Cheese production, which is a major product for the Australian dairy industry, would be particularly affected. Cheese production currently uses more than one-third of Australian milk, and exports of cheese total approximately 157,000 tonnes per annum, with a value of nearly $977 million in 2021/2022.

There are also impacts for meat exports, a widespread outbreak of FMD would have significant consequences for Australia’s animal industries, with the closure of export markets potentially resulting in a direct economic impact of around $80 billion over 10 years (2021-21 estimate).

In addition to foot and mouth disease, Australia also faces a continued threat from African Swine Fever, and the bee population is currently under threat from small hive beetle and the varroa mite. These examples highlight the importance of maintaining strong biosecurity measures to protect Australia’s agricultural industry.

The government must keep its focus on biosecurity to protect Tasmania’s agricultural industry, particularly one crucial to the economy and the cost of living for Australian households.

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