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Australia slaps ban on importing meat products for personal use from 70 countries

Updated: Jan 3

Australia has announced harsh new bans on some meat imports from 70 countries, as a disease with the ability to wipe out an entire industry spreads.

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Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has slapped a ban on the importation on of meat products for personal use from about 70 countries. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Pate, pork crackling and other meat products have been slapped with a wide-reaching import ban in an effort to keep foot and mouth disease out of the country.

Australians can no longer import meat products for personal use from about 70 countries, including Indonesia and China, where FMD is endemic or there is an active outbreak of the virus.

Thirty-four countries including the UK and US and Mexico which have been deemed FMD-free are exempt from the ban, which came into effect at midnight on Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the ban didn’t apply to the importation of meat products for commercial use because companies already had to adhere to stringent customs regulations.

“When the disease first reached Indonesia, even before it got to Bali, the Department of Agriculture actually tightened the rules around those who want to import, for commercial reasons, meat and dairy products,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“And a number of products had their certificates actually suspended.”

Meat imports for commercial use will not be banned, as these are already subject to strict regulations. Picture: MATT THOMPSON

A widespread epidemic of FMD – which affects cloven-hoofed animals including cattle and sheep – could wipe out Australia’s livestock industry, at a cost of $80bn over a decade.

Senator Watt said the likelihood of a local outbreak remained static at about 12 per cent.

“That’s the best estimate that we have,” he said.

Senator Watt said “logically”, one could expect the risk to have dropped given Australia’s efforts to shore up its defences against the active outbreak in Indonesia.

These have included the installation of biosecurity officers at Australian airports and tougher screening restrictions for returning travellers.

The Albanese government in July promised to send 1 million FMD vaccination doses worth $1.5m to the Indonesian government to combat the outbreak in the archipelago nation.

Senator Watt said on Wednesday those vaccines arrived about a fortnight ago.

Indonesia is battling an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, a highly-contagious disease that affects hoofed animals such as cows and pigs. Picture: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

“The Indonesian government has assured us that they are being distributed and administered now,” he said.

“There is a worldwide shortage of these vaccines at the moment but I know that our department has a procurement process well underway.

“And hopefully it won’t be too long before more vaccines will arrive there too.”

Senator Watt said he didn’t know exactly how many of those doses had been administered in Indonesia.

“I don’t keep track of every single vaccine study in another country,” he said.

“But certainly we’ve been assured by the Indonesian government that they are distributing and administering those vaccines.”

Senator Watt said the latest report from Indonesia said it had administered more than 2 million vaccines to their livestock population and had about 600,000 infected animals.

“So they are making progress,” he said.

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