When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to adapt our lives; work, school, travel and even how we greeted each other, it hit us like a ton of bricks how quickly everything can change when a highly transmissible disease breaches our borders.
We know now the impact a human pandemic can have on our health, economy and way of life, but most of us are far less aware of the other major biosecurity threats sitting right on our doorstep, which could massively affect our agricultural industries, and consequently our state and the entire country.
With a state economic output of nearly $21 billion in 2021 and more than 83,000 people employed in the industry, there is no denying that agriculture in NSW is absolutely vital to our state's prosperity and growth.
The future value of the sector, including the protection of our international trade reputation and ongoing export market access, is contingent on our state's capacity to mitigate and manage biosecurity risks - and this level of risk is rising thanks, in part, to increased overseas shipping and disruptions to freight and travel networks caused by the pandemic.
In the past three years alone, three of the top five animal diseases worldwide have been detected for the first time in our region (African swine fever in 2018, lumpy skin disease in 2019 and African horse sickness in 2020).
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics has estimated there is a 42 per cent chance that Australia will experience an internationally notifiable major disease outbreak within the next five years.
I have significant concerns with lumpy skin disease and foot and mouth disease, which have both hit Australia's radar in recent months having emerged on our doorstep in Asia.
Incursions of either of these diseases could be incredibly damaging to our world-class agricultural output.
To remain on the front foot, I have pulled together an industry taskforce with whom I met with on Thursday, in particular to discuss the imminent threat of lumpy skin disease.
Concurrently, senior agricultural officials from across the country have also met to agree on a coordinated response to a possible incursion, and the NSW Government will propose the fast tracking of the development of an mRNA vaccine as a defence mechanism.
Biosecurity is absolutely my top priority, and as threats continue to increase, the NSW Government will respond by deploying new technologies and additional resources to keep unwanted pests and diseases out, and our communities and farmers safe.
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