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Biosecurity in the Grains Industry

Across Australia's plant industries, there are on average 30-40 new pest incursions each year. Most of these new pest detections are minor and eradication is not considered necessary and/or cost effective. Several key biosecurity issues have occurred over the past few years and Plant Health Australia and the peak industry body have been at the front line in protecting the grains industry.

Karnal bunt Case Study

In 2004, Pakistan claimed the fungal disease, Karnal Bunt, was present in Australian wheat shipments. This claim affected $500 million of wheat on the water at the time. Offloading product from ships carrying Australian wheat was potentially affected in all ports of the world.

Karnal bunt is absent from Australia and in order to prove area freedom from this disease, 28,000 samples were tested. PHA commissioned leading experts to develop diagnostic protocols for use in Australia and Pakistan. All samples were found to be negative and trade was able to resume.

Khapra beetle Case Study

In 2007, Khapra beetle was detected in personal belongings arriving at Perth. Khapra beetle can cause losses of 75% in stored grain and the cost of this pest becoming established in Western Australia alone has been estimated at $117million per annum due to damage to grain and market losses. A rapid response from government and industry under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed saw the Khapra beetle detection eradicated, and subsequent monitoring found no establishment occurred.

These examples illustrate how PHA is able to provide critical technical know-how and assistance in the event of a suspected incursion. These services are available to the grains industry by virtue of Grain Producers Australia's Membership of the company. As well as providing direct Member support, PHA assists all stakeholders in plant based agriculture through its custodianship of Australia's national emergency response agreement – the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed. The grains industry became a signatory to the Deed in October 2004.

Outside of emergency response support PHA assists the grains industry through a range of risk mitigation measures which include:

  • regular review of the grains Industry Biosecurity Plan
  • threat and risk identification
  • cost beneficial post-border surveillance, monitoring, detection and awareness programs
  • biosecurity measures at the national, regional and farm level
  • information and tools to support implementation of biosecurity measures (this is coordinated for the grains industry through the national Grains Farm Biosecurity Program)
  • wide-ranging and effective diagnostic networks nationally and internationally
  • training and support to improve emergency response capability and biosecurity practices
  • biosecurity investments, including research, development and extension
  • information systems and online tools
  • national strategies to enhance Australia's plant biosecurity system
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