THE Australian beef industry has been urged to “get its house in order” around timely decisions to sell livestock as Foot & Mouth Disease sweeps through the Indonesian archipelago.
It is a month since FMD was discovered in Indonesia, following illegal trade in affected livestock with some local farmers and processors pointing the finger at imported buffalo meat as the infection source.
Meat and livestock market analyst Simon Quilty from Global AgriTrends has called for a ban on Australian tourism travel into the region for at least six months due to the “Indonesian government’s slow response to the crisis”, the lack of vaccines and uncontrolled movement of cattle.
See Beef Central’s earlier on-the-ground report from CPC’s Troy Setter.
“We have a problem on our doorstep we need to think about, not just put our head in the sand,” Mr Quilty told an audience at a Pasture Agronomy Service conference at Wagga Wagga yesterday.
Mr Quilty said FMD had spread quickly over the past month to East, West and central Java, Lombok, and many islands in Indonesia.
“The real concern is two diseases at play – Lumpy Skin Disease and FMD. If FMD should come to Australia every market open to us closes overnight, but the jury is out on what a Lumpy Skin Disease outbreak would mean,” he said.
“We are confident South Korea would ban us for a minimum of three years and China would ban us overnight.”
Mr Quilty said the Indonesian government was slow in reporting FMD and a mass culling of the nation’s beef herd was not occurring.
“The reality is it will take eight to 12 months to get on top of FMD, and LSD will continue to spread throughout the entire Indonesia, probably getting into East Timor and Papua New Guinea.
“Until Indonesia fully vaccinates their herd, none of us can rest easy.”
Vaccine supplies for both diseases are tight globally, with the FMD strain in Indonesia only recently identified as IND2001 and it has an incubation period of two to 14 days.
Lockdown creates panic
This week the Indonesian beef industry entered a lockdown period to prevent animals from being transferred, the government instigating a 10-step process for vaccines, and a groundswell to have buffalo meat banned.
“That created panic with farmers wanting to sell their animals before they get the disease but that rush to the door is spreading the disease quickly,” Mr Quilty said.
“The big concern is the movement of the 17 million pigs within Indonesia as they are viral factories – once a pig gets FMD it produces millions of particles of the disease whereas cattle and goats carry the disease but are not viral factories.
“It is now in the pig population and more concerning is if it gets into the Balinese population of 900,000 pigs and 2.5 million cattle as the real worry for us is the tourists.”
Every year pre-COVID, 1.3 million Australians visited Bali.
“We are creating highways through each of our airports at Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for FMD because it is in Bali – the disease can be carried on clothing,” Mr Quilty said.
“As a country we seriously need to think about banning people going to Bali, as extreme as that sounds.”
He said it would be highly unlikely for FMD to be windborne spread to Australia but the nation has an estimated 18 percent chance of the disease reaching our shores.
The disease could cause cattle fatality rates of 30-50pc in feedlots, 1-5pc for adult cattle in grazing systems and more than 20pc for calves.
Vaccination of the national beef herd with the “live” FMD vaccine would mean Australia would automatically lose markets in South Korea and Japan.
“There is a 50-50 chance of FMD reaching Australia and that threat is immediate, with cattle prices inevitably falling dramatically. So, just get your house in order,” he urged the Wagga Wagga audience.
“As a country we shipped 772,000 live cattle last year with 409,000 went to Indonesia, and we expect that will be halved this year while live cattle prices in Darwin have fallen 15-17pc.”
But the upside was the impending ban on buffalo meat in Indonesia, which may open potential market opportunities for Australian boxed beef.
Australia is in a unique position to supply the world with protein due to the counter-cyclical nature of its herd rebuild. While other key supply countries are liquidating, Australia is currently rebuilding, presenting opportunities for beef and sheep meat exports over the next few years to feed the world.
“We just need to get over this immediate threat on our doorstep of FMD,” Mr Quilty said.