Australian Government Announces $14 Million Package to Combat Threat of Foot-and-Mouth Disease

The Australian government announced on July 15 a $14 million package to help boost defenses against the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the country and overseas.

The package includes $9 million to be spent on 18 new biosecurity officers at airports and mail centers and detector dogs in Cairns and Darwin, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt told reporters.

The package also includes $5 million for a technical and epidemiological support package for Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea.

Australia, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea are free from the deadly livestock disease, however, an outbreak in Bali earlier this month put Australian authorities on high alert.

“If foot-and-mouth disease gets into our country it will be a devastating blow for our agricultural industry, particularly our livestock industry,” Watt said.

Watt warned that a widespread FMD outbreak in Australia could cost $80 billion to the economy over a decade.

“While there is a lot of attention on the traveling public coming back from Indonesia… the highest-risk way of foot-and-mouth disease coming back into our country is through animal products, meat products, and dairy products,” Watt further said.

The Australian government has already announced more screening of passengers and luggage arriving from Indonesia.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) welcomed the latest funding to support Indonesian farmers.

“If we are to keep FMD out of Australia we need to take a two-pronged approach – a ring of steel at home and supporting our neighbors in places like Indonesia,” NFF President Fiona Simson said in a statement.

The Australian government had previously provided $1.5 million for at least one million FMD doses for Indonesia’s vaccination program.

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