Whilst FMD has been in Indonesia since May, all the excitement seems to have started since it was discovered that FMD was officially detected in Bali. The concern is that Indonesia is physically close to Australia and that we Australians have an affection for jaunts to Bali.
One of the solutions proposed by many is to close the borders to Indonesia. This is certainly an option which would likely dramatically reduce the potential for the spread of FMD to Australia. However, is it the right option?
The risk of FMD has increased with the incursion into Indonesia, although CEBRA (Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Analysis) have only increased the probability of an outbreak over the next five years from 9% (March 2021) to 11.6%.
It is, however, not the only country that has had an outbreak (see map below).
The chart below shows the number of outbreaks solely during the past year and half. As we can see, there are a lot of countries on this list. Many of these nations are also popular destinations, especially South Africa, a country where lots of ex-pats come from.
Let’s look a little further into the data after the chart.
We always like to delve a little bit further into the data. I have selected a few of the key countries which have specific arrival data available on ABS. These were South Africa, Israel, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Malaysia. These nations are all in the ‘top 15’ in terms of the number of outbreaks during 2021 and 2022.
Out of these countries, Indonesia is clearly the country with the lion’s share of travellers going back and forth. However, these other countries are clearly still a risk.
Do we ban flights from all these countries? My view is that it becomes a very slippery slope, at what point do you stop. The world is teeming with exotic diseases – Germany has African Swine Fever. Should we ban flights from Europe? How long do we close the border with Indonesia, weeks, months or years?
Luckily, Australia has strong biosecurity protocols compared to the rest of the world. We have been able to keep out a lot of diseases from Australia.
If we were to ban flights to Bali, it would severely hamper their tourism industry, which COVID has already hit. This isn’t the best way to develop a relationship with a strategic and commercial partner.
Indonesia is extremely important for our future exports; we don’t want to damage this relationship. The future prospects for Indonesia are huge, as outlined by an article by Matt late last year ‘Beyond China‘
FMD in Indonesia is making farmers toey, but we need to cool things down a little. The probability of an outbreak is still relatively low, albeit with a high severity if it does occur.
The disease has to get from an infected animal in Indonesia to a susceptible animal in Australia to cause an outbreak. The majority of tourists transiting back from Bali are unlikely to be heading near a farm. During the middle of winter, with the cold, they are especially unlikely to do so in their Bali gear.
The most significant risk is through infected food, so the increased use of sniffer dogs at the airport will assist with this.
Additionally, increasing biosecurity controls on the farm, checking visitors etc., should be considered a critical ‘front line’ approach to minimise the risk of an outbreak.
We must be extremely vigilant at our borders and on our farms. At the moment, we don’t need to shut the borders; the best bet is for the government to assist as much as possible in bringing the Indonesian outbreak under control, and educate passengers coming in.
At the most extreme, fines for people who go onto a farm within X period might be a valid approach, but again from Indonesia solely, or all FMD-infected nations?
You get access to all our content on the TEM platform, free of charge. We only ask two things;
Sign up if you haven’t already.
Share it with your friends, family and/or your social media accounts.
Thomas Elder Markets (TEM) is an independent, data-driven market analysis service that provides premium agricultural market insights and reports. Our online reports are provided completely free of charge, with no strings attached. Sign up to the TEM newsletter now.