Australian tourists should be banned from visiting Bali for six months to stop the spread of disease into the country’s cattle herds, an industry expert warns.
The Department of Agriculture (DAWE) confirmed Australia is continuing to operate with “heightened border activities” a month after a rapid outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) was detected on the Indonesian holiday island.
Should the FMD find its way into Australia, Global AgriTrends analyst Simon Quilty is confident key markets including China, Japan, North America and South Korea would ban the importation of Australian beef.
This would devastate Australian farmers, and could cause a significant drop in cattle prices.
Mr Quilty is concerned by what he says is Indonesia’s “slow response” to the situation, worsened by a global shortage of vaccines to combat the disease.
He predicts that without urgent action, over the next eight to 12 months, it will further spread across the Indonesia’s other islands, and into East Timor and Papua New Guinea.
With foot and mouth disease carried on clothes and shoes, he warns we are creating disease “highways through each of our airports” in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
“As a country we seriously need to think about banning people going to Bali, as extreme as that sounds,” he said.
Returning travellers from Bali to undergo increased questioning
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 1.3 million Australians visited Bali annually, and tourism numbers are now on the rise.
Travellers returning to Australia must declare upon arrival if they have travelled to farms or rural areas.
“Operational change advice has been sent to front line staff about FMD risks with detailed guidance on targeted FMD questioning to risk assess travellers arriving from Indonesia,” a Department of Agriculture spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
“Biosecurity officers have increased FMD questioning, and will commence further targeted airport operations.
“The Department has also advised livestock industries to be alert, raised awareness at the border provided advice to state and territory governments, and liaised with Indonesian counterparts.”
Concern about global food shortage in 2023
As an expected global food shortage looms, exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, Mr Quilty believes Australia is in a unique position to help the world respond.
“The other story that I'm telling is the global protein shortage, and that Australia seems to be in a unique position,” he said.
“Our rebuild of both our herd is counter-cyclical to everywhere else. They’re going through drought and liquidating, while we’ve been rebuilding for two years.
“As food shortages become more critical next year, Australia is in a unique position to feed the world.”
If the disease got into Australian feedlots, they could expect a 30 to 50 per cent mortality rate, while one in five grass fed adult animals would likely be lost.
FMD is believed to have infected some pig populations in Indonesia, where due to intensive farming conditions it could rapidly spread and mutate.
Lumpy skin disease has also been detected in the country and Australia’s beef producers have been urged to “get their house in order”, but not panic.
Along with the travel ban, Mr Quilty believes early vaccination of herds could help slow the spread of FMD.
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