The challenge facing Australia to prove to trading partners it remains free of lumpy skin disease has deepened over night with confirmation that a second country has followed Indonesia in suspending cattle imports from Australia.
Indonesia recently announced it will not accept cattle from four registered export facilities in northern Australia after claiming cattle exported from Australia and handled through those yards had tested positive to lumpy skin disease after arriving in Indonesia.
Now Malaysia has followed suit but taken an even bigger action by suspending all live cattle and buffalo exports from Australia.
Malaysia has imported in the vicinity of 20,000 to 30,000 head of cattle from Australia annually in recent years, but has only imported 2328 head in the first six months of 2023.
The suspensions come despite Australia having never tested positive to Lumpy Skin Disease.
Australia has ramped up monitoring and surveillance of LSD including increased testing across the north since an outbreak of the highly infectious disease was confirmed in Indonesia in March 2022.
Testing has also been underway in the four suspended facilities in Queensland, the NT and WA, with those results expected to be presented to Indonesia later this week or early next week.
Industry hopes those tests will reinforce Australia’s LSD-free status and satisfy Indonesia’s concerns and prompt it to resume full trading arrangements with Australia.
In a statement to media (reprinted below in full) Australia’s chief veterinary officer Mark Schipp said he understands Malaysia’s decision was based on Indonesia’s advice that they will not accept cattle from four specific export establishments in Australia, following the detection of LSD in exported Australian cattle after they had arrived and spent time in Indonesia.
He said the Australian Government is working to finalise the investigation into the relevant health status of the cattle herds, and confirmed he has spoken to his Malaysian counterpart and requested the import restriction be lifted immediately.
Statement from chief veterinary officer Mark Schipp
“As Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, I can confirm that lumpy skin disease, or LSD, has never been detected in Australia, and Australia remains free from the disease.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has been advised that Malaysia has temporarily suspended live cattle and buffalo exports from Australia.
We understand this decision was based on Indonesia’s advice that they will not accept cattle from four specific export establishments following detection of LSD in exported Australian cattle after they had arrived and spent time in Indonesia.
We are working to finalise the investigation into the relevant health status of the cattle herds associated with these establishments to provide the assurances that Indonesia has requested.
Australia is urgently engaging with its Malaysian counterparts to confirm our robust animal health system, and to advise that LSD is not present in Australia.
I have made representations to my Malaysian counterpart, requesting the import restriction on live cattle and buffalo from Australia be lifted without delay. I have also confirmed to the World Organisation for Animal Health that Australia remains LSD free in accordance with international standards.
The department has briefed the industry and will continue to work closely with stakeholders to provide the necessary assurances to our trading partners on our animal health status.
While Indonesia has sought assurances that Australian cattle comply with their health requirements, it is important to recognise that Australian livestock products continue to be traded, and the detection of LSD in cattle of Australian-origin post arrival in Indonesia does not affect the animal health status of Australia.
Australia has robust biosecurity systems in place for the ongoing monitoring of Australia’s animal disease status including for LSD.
LSD is a highly infectious viral disease of cattle and buffalo that is transmitted by biting insects – it is not a disease that poses a risk to humans.
There is no cause for concern for Australian cattle producers as Australia remains LSD free.”
Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt this morning told media that Malaysia has decided to temporarily stop exports of live cattle and buffalo from Australia until testing is complete and “they can be shown that we don’t have LSD”.
“The testing results are starting to come in and there is nothing that we have seen so far to alter our position that Australia is free of lumpy skin disease.
“But our biosecurity officials are urgently working with both Malaysia and Indonesia to meet their requirements, to demonstrate conclusively that we don’t have lumpy skin disease, and we hope to see that trade reopen as quickly as possible.”