Foot and Mouth Disease Detected; Livestock Sector on Alert

By Hari Yellina
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Following reports of more than 1,000 instances of foot-and-mouth disease in Indonesia, Australian biosecurity authorities are on red alert, fearing that a huge multi-state outbreak here might cost the sector billions of dollars. The Australian Cattle Council announced on Friday that 1,247 instances of the contagious disease had been discovered in four East Java provinces: Gresik, Lamongan, Sidoarjo, and Mojokerto. The council said it knew Indonesia was planning an interim order and gathering samples to select an adequate vaccination in a statement to members. “We are working with Indonesia and across our networks to see what assistance Australia and other global and regional organisations can provide to enable a rapid and successful response.”

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious animal disease that would have severe consequences were it to be introduced into Australia. There have been a number of outbreaks in FMD-free countries that have had large socio-economic impacts. The 2001 outbreak in the United Kingdom caused losses of more than 8 billion pounds (approximately $AUD 19 billion).

The reports of the Indonesian FMD outbreak come at a time when Australia’s biosecurity experts are focusing their efforts on lumpy skin disease, which has been found in Indonesia as well. Given the massive rises in livestock prices, we would expect losses to be substantially higher than the recent official projections, according to Cattle Council chief executive John McGoverne. In 2013, agricultural commodity forecaster ABARES produced research estimating revenue losses of between $49.3 billion and $51.8 billion over ten years in the event of a large multi-state FMD outbreak. According to the ABARES analysis, communities relying on cattle production may face social consequences such as mental health difficulties and diminished welfare, in addition to financial losses.

Mr McGoverne pointed out that cattle prices were significantly higher than they were nine years ago and the increase in the benchmark price the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI), which has more than doubled in that time, would be reflected in industry losses. Foot-and-mouth disease caused more than $19 billion is losses during an outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001.


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