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Potential socio-economic impacts of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Australia

Economics International trade Diseases Rural conditions Industries Diseases Australia
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apo-nid35972.pdf 1.3 MB

This report shows that an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Australia is expected to generate very large adverse economic impacts to both producers and other industries inside and beyond the outbreak area; with financial losses and eradication activities also having social impacts.


Australia is free of the highly contagious foot‐and‐mouth disease (FMD), which affects cloven hoofed animals including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer, buffalo and camelids. This disease has serious economic and social implications for countries producing and exporting livestock and livestock products. When countries have an outbreak of FMD their livestock export products become subject to trade bans designed to reduce the risk of transmission of the disease to livestock in other countries. For exporters, this results in product being diverted to domestic markets where it sells at much lower prices (due to the increase in supply). Since Australia exports around 60 per cent of livestock production, mostly to markets sensitive to FMD, an outbreak would seriously affect our livestock producers, related agricultural business and other industries.

This report evaluates potential economic costs and identifies the social impacts of a hypothetical FMD outbreak in Australia. The findings will inform policy on future management strategies and help minimise the costs of an FMD outbreak.

ABARES modelled disease control strategies for three scenarios:

  • A small outbreak in North Queensland, where most cattle are raised on extensive rangelands.
  • A small outbreak in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, which has a high density of livestock and intensive dairy farms.
  • A large multi‐state outbreak that, by the time of detection, has spread from Victoria to all eastern states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania).

Disease control strategies examined included:

  • for the small and large outbreaks

‐ stamping out, which involves destruction and disposal of animals in infected and dangerous contact premises

‐ stamping out with extensive vaccination, which requires vaccination of all FMD-susceptible animals within a designated ring surrounding infected and dangerous contact premises; and removal of vaccinated animals once the disease is contained

  • for the large multi‐state outbreak (in addition to the above)

‐ stamping out with targeted vaccination, which includes the vaccination of all cattle and sheep on mixed cattle and sheep farms within a designated ring surrounding infected and dangerous contact premises. In outbreak areas outside the high‐risk ring, stamping out (without vaccination) is undertaken.

An outbreak of FMD in Australia would have adverse economic impacts on producers and other industries within and beyond the outbreak area. Financial losses and eradication activities would also have social impacts. Findings suggest these economic and social impacts can be reduced by the choice of eradication strategy. For example, vaccination could play a beneficial role in some outbreak situations. Impacts could also be reduced by resuming market access quickly (where feasible), response preparedness and use of communication before and during an outbreak.


Authored by Benjamin Buetre, Santhi Wicks, Heleen Kruger, Niki Millist, Alasebu Yainshet, Graeme Garner, Alixaandrea Duncan, Ali Abdalla, Charlene Trestrail, Marco Hatt, Lyndal‐Joy Thompson and Michael Symes.

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