Agriculture Minister David Littleproud

February 10, 2021

The Federal Government is urging heightened biosecurity vigilance ahead of Chinese New Year after reports of new variants of African Swine Fever (ASF) emerging in Asia.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the next few weeks were critical to keeping the pig disease out.

“The reported emergence of new variants of the ASF virus in Asia is concerning,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Variants are showing less obvious signs of the disease which increases the likelihood of it going undetected and uncontrolled.

“With Lunar Chinese New Year celebrations approaching, more gift items arriving and increased travel in the region, this is the perfect storm of risk.”

More than 11,600 outbreaks of ASF have been reported since the disease – which is deadly for pigs but does not affect humans – emerged in Asia in 2018.

“My department is aware of this developing situation and is pulling out all stops to ensure ASF does not arrive here, including interventions at the border, targeted operations to detect fraudulently labelled imported product, and conducting more testing of pork products seized through international mail.

“Changes have been made to legislation to allow increased penalties for travellers who do not declare high risk goods at the border.

“Other legislation changes also allow the Australian Border Force to cancel certain visas and refuse entry to Australia for serious biosecurity breaches.

“We are making sure we are as ready as possible to act should ASF ever be detected here, running simulation exercises for the Australia pork industry throughout 2019-20.

“But maintaining Australia’s highly valued pest and disease-free status is everyone’s responsibility. A collective effort is our best defence.

“While Chinese New Year gifts are brought or sent with good intentions some can introduce pests or diseases into Australia, including ASF.

“If these products are brought or sent to Australia, people are not only risking significant penalties for breaching our biosecurity conditions, they are also putting industries, jobs and the health of our plants and animals at risk.

“Commonly intercepted items include pork, which could carry deadly ASF, fruit, plants, eggs and herbs.”

Between November 5, 2018, and December 31, 2020, 42.8 tonnes of pork products were seized from air travellers and 9.4 tonnes was intercepted in the mail at Australian borders.

Fragments of the ASF virus were present in almost 50 per cent of the pork products seized.

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