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Indonesia is set to receive a much-need helping hand in its fight against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and lumpy skin disease (LSD) thanks to a $1.4 million project initiated by the Australian Government.

While not detected in Australia for more than 100 years, an outbreak of either disease would have a devasting impact on the nation’s livestock and associated industries.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) in 2022 revealed that an FMD outbreak alone could cost Australia around $80 billion over 10 years.

For this reason, the Federal Government and Meat and Livestock Australia have been working to combat and assist in the fight to control foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and lumpy skin disease (LSD) in neighbouring countries, including Indonesia.

The threats of FMD and LSD entering Australia’s shores have become a popular talking point in recent times following the detection of LSD in Indonesia in March 2022 and the detection of FMD in Bali in July 2022.

“LSD and FMD present the most significant threats to Australia’s biosecurity integrity in decades,” Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer Mark Schipp said.

Through the Federal Government’s latest commitment, a departmental veterinary officer will be assigned to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) office in Indonesia in June 2023, providing a conduit between Indonesian and Australian experts.

“Providing on-ground technical support in Indonesia will help to mitigate the risks of the disease spreading in the region,” Dr Schipp said.

“This project will improve the ability to detect, control and prevent FMD and LSD in Indonesia and strengthen the capacity of national and local governments to arrest the further spread of these diseases.

“It will also allow livestock farmers and stakeholders to use best practices for prevention and control of FMD and LSD and improve communications between the Indonesian government and farmers.”

Dr Schipp said while Australia remained free from both diseases, it was critically important to support neighbouring countries in preventing and responding effectively to the diseases.

“Helping our close neighbours in this way also has a flow-on protective effect to Australia and other countries in our region,” he said.

“Our strong partnerships with countries such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste is providing an opportunity for us to work together on issues of regional concern and also helps to safeguard our respective agriculture sectors and the industries on which they rely.”

Dr Schipp said the project was another example of the nation continuing to look for new ways to protect its farmers, producers and rural communities.

The project forms part of the $10 million biosecurity support package for Indonesia announced by Minister Watt and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in August 2022.

This funding has seen additional frontline biosecurity officers employed, the donation of four million doses of FMD vaccines to Indonesia, the redeployment of detection dogs to northern airports, and the introduction of sanitation foot mats at all international airports with flights from Indonesia.

In 2021, beef and veal were Australia’s second largest agricultural export, totalling $9 billion, while feeder cattle were Australia’s tenth largest agricultural export, totalling $1 billion.

FMD is a highly contagious disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals including cattle and sheep, while LSD is also contagious and affects animals such as cattle.

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