Blue tongue outbreak creates China block

By Alana Christensen

China continues to refuse to accept dairy heifers from northern Victoria, despite local authorities declaring the region is free of the bluetongue virus.

Industry sources have confirmed that the export of cattle to China from the area around Echuca remains suspended because Chinese authorities are yet to formally acknowledge that the temporary BTV zone has been lifted.

Restrictions are in place for a small number of countries, including China, that require animals to be sourced from a bluetongue-virus-free zone.

The decision is resulting in significant costs to the industry according to the Australian Livestock Exporters Council.

“Any supply chain disruption comes at a significant commercial cost to producers, agents and exporters and we are hopeful that any further disruption will be limited,” a spokesperson said.

“For this valuable trade to be successful, all stakeholders including producers, exporters and our importer customers must have full confidence in our biosecurity and regulatory systems.”

Bluetongue is a viral disease of livestock spread to ruminants by flying insects known as midges.

While BTV is endemic in northern Australia, Victoria, along with the rest of southern Australia, has previously been classified as being free of BTV.

Concerns were originally raised about the existence of the virus in October, when the past exposure to bluetongue virus was detected in several 12-month-old dairy heifers on a property near Bamawm.

Although a 100 km bluetongue virus zone was put in place on October 13, it was lifted in mid-December after 2500 samples from 98 mobs of cattle were analysed.

A Department of Agriculture and Water Resources spokesperson said steps were being taken to resolve the situation.

“Australia continues to work closely with all importing countries, including China, to ensure importing country requirements are met for every commodity,” a spokesperson said.

“Negotiations are under way with China for live export of cattle located within the boundaries of the former bluetongue exclusion zone.”