BIOSECURITY is a key theme of Ag2030 and vital in reaching the agriculture sector’s ambitious target to achieve $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.

Head of biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Andrew Tongue spoke at the ABARES Outlook 2021 conference today on opportunities and challenges for biosecurity as we look towards 2030.

“Australia takes biosecurity very seriously. It is essential to our agriculture industries and natural environment,” Mr Tongue said.

“Our biosecurity system safeguards our country from the costly and disruptive impacts of devastating pest and disease risks.

“It also underpins access to overseas markets for our agricultural and food exporters, as part of our clean and green image. 

“Maintaining our strong biosecurity system is no small effort. There are many challenges.

“This decade we will also see more mail and cargo entering Australia than ever before and as the world recovers from COVID-19, international air travel will eventually resume and passenger numbers increase.

“We will continue to face significant and growing biosecurity risks that could have devastating consequences.

“African swine fever is on our doorstep and could cost our pork producers and our community up to $2 billion over five years if it arrived here.

Xylella fastidiosa, which is our number one priority plant pest, could cost our wine industry up to $7.9 billion over 50 years if established here and negatively impact numerous other horticultural industries.

“Biosecurity risks are also changing and becoming more complex and harder to manage.

“New variants of African swine fever have recently been reported, which show less obvious signs of the disease and increase the likelihood of it going undetected and uncontrolled.

“Several countries, including Australia, have also seen a recent increase in khapra beetle interceptions in imported products and containers.

“We are also seeing a greater complexity in global supply chains, intensified by COVID-19 disruptions.

“Australia’s biosecurity system has been built up over many decades by the hard work and dedication of many people. However, to respond to these challenges, it must evolve, keep pace with trade, and become better. 

“Greater focus on innovation and technology, and closer partnerships with industry, will be critical in achieving reform.

“We are committed to ensuring Australia’s biosecurity system continues to safeguard our reputation as a supplier of safe, world class produce.”