Thursday, 26 May 2022 08:55

FMD scare puts NZ on watch

Written by  David Anderson
Biosecurity NZ’s Stuart Anderson says his organisation is closely monitoring the situation in Indonesia. Biosecurity NZ’s Stuart Anderson says his organisation is closely monitoring the situation in Indonesia.

A recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) in Indonesia has the NZ agriculture sector and its officials on high alert.

Indonesia formally notified a FMD outbreak to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) earlier this month.

Stuart Anderson, deputy director-general Biosecurity NZ, told Rural News his organisation is closely monitoring the situation in Indonesia.

"We met with key primary sector stakeholdersw on May 10 to discuss the situation in Indonesia and will continue to work closely with them," he says. "We are in contact with our Australian counterparts who are also taking a cautious approach and we will offer our expertise and help to Indonesia."

Anderson says there are strong import health standards in place in NZ for products coming from Indonesia - especially PKE.

"An audit last year of the PKE supply chain in Indonesia showed they were following our requirements," he added. "However, we will seek further assurances from them."

Anderson says the risk of PKE carrying FMD is low because of the heat process used to produce it.

"We will continually assess the risk from Indonesia and strengthen our biosecurity requirements if needed. But it's important to note we have some of the strongest FMD measures in the world at present."

Anderson explained these include:

  • Strict import health standards for goods coming into the country, such as products like palm kernel, to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases.
  • MPI's risk assessment, visual inspections, X-ray screening, scanning technology, and detector dogs to prevent risk goods from being carried into New Zealand by travellers or arriving by mail.
  • All shipping containers and imported goods are assessed for biosecurity risk. Containers and goods may need inspection or treatment at transitional facilities before they can be cleared for entry into New Zealand.
  • Travellers to New Zealand must declare all goods, equipment, and food that could carry unwanted pests or diseases into New Zealand. Travellers must also declare when they have been in contact with livestock. MPI checks any passengers and baggage identified as being at high risk of carrying FMD.
  • People who forget to declare items or who make false declarations are fined or can be imprisoned.

"At present, there are no direct flights between Indonesia and New Zealand. This helps lower the risk, but our staff at the border are on alert for risk cargo, mail or passenger behaviour," Anderson adds.

Meanwhile, he says while the current risk is low, Indonesia's FMD outbreak a timely reminder for farmers to keep a watch on the health of their animals.

"Especially for symptoms including, high fever, mouth and feet blisters or erosions and lameness," he explains

"People should call their veterinarian or MPI's exotic pest and disease hotline (0800 80 99 66) if they have concerns."

It is also understood that the various farming sector groups have also been talking to their members about the increased risk on the back of the Indonesian FMD outbreak.

"The M. bovis response has provided valuable lessons, including the importance of work closely with the sector wand farmers on-the-ground and they have been included in our FMD preparedness," Anderson added.

Emergency Powers

An FMD outbreak would trigger the declaration of a Biosecurity Emergency under Part 7 of the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Declaring a Biosecurity Emergency would provide very broad powers to MPI for the management of the outbreak and to facilitate disease control. These powers could cover surveillance, investigation, movement control, organism management and other powers to manage the crisis.

How Ready Are We?

New Zealand has some of the world's toughest biosecurity measures for FMD, claims Biosecurity NZ deputy director-general Stuart Anderson.

“We’ve worked closely with the primary sector on FMD preparation over many years and will continue to do so,” he says. “For many years, we’ve worked on FMD preparedness with primary sector groups, including running exercises of what would happen.”

Anderson adds that in this year’s Budget, the Government announced an extra $42.9 for biosecurity.

“Some of that funding will be dedicated to our FMD preparedness work with our primary sector partners.”

More: biosecurity/plans-for-respondingto- serious-disease-outbreaks/ foot-and-mouth-disease/response-tofoot- and-mouth-disease

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