Stop the disease at all costs

27 July 2022

If a global pandemic wasn’t enough to get through, livestock owners around the country are now nervously dealing with the threat of foot and mouth disease.

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Victoria is Australia’s largest producer of food and fibre products and we must do everything we can to protect the sector. If foot and mouth takes hold, the industry will be devastated and our reputation will be tarnished for years to come.

The impact will have ramifications on dairy products such as cheese, milk, butter and margarine and meat products including lamb, beef and mutton. They will be off our table and off the export table too.

As the grandson of farmers, the risk of an outbreak really hits home, and the concern is being acutely felt by our friends and businesses in the regions.

That’s why we have no hesitation supporting the toughest biosecurity measures required to prevent an outbreak here in Australia, as we know it would have catastrophic consequences for our economy.

It’s estimated the cost to the Australian economy of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease here could be as high as $80 billion and would result in a ban on the export of our livestock and products.

Agricultural production and food manufacturing in Victoria is worth $17.8 billion with 146,000 people employed across the sector. Victoria’s nearly 22,000 farm businesses account for a quarter of Australia’s total farm businesses with the beef, sheep and dairy industries among our biggest employers.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the largest supplier of certificates of origin, which businesses must have to export products, in Victoria. We also work closely with the State and Federal Governments to boost trade opportunities, particularly in the lucrative Asia-Pacific region.

Victoria’s global reputation as a source of high-quality, `clean and green’ food and fibre products is crucial to our post-pandemic economy as we leverage opportunities in international markets.

The impact of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease would be felt well beyond the farmgate. It would have dire consequences for consumers already dealing with significant spikes in food prices and Victoria’s embattled hospitality sector still recovering from the pandemic.

While it might seem a drastic measure to some, the Federal Government has announced that international passengers arriving in Australia have to walk over sanitation mats and could be compelled to hand over their shoes.

When you consider the enormous impact of any potential outbreak, it’s undoubtedly the right step. Potentially, there may even need to be more done in time.

Victorian business has already dealt with one deadly virus over the past two years. We certainly don’t need another one.

 

This article originally appeared in the Herald Sun on Wednesday July 27, 2022 

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