Pig farmers fear disease outbreak
By SHAN GOODWIN
NUMULGI pig farmer Peter Hannigan is looking down the barrel of being forced off the land.
If a deadly piglet disease reaches the region, it will be the last straw for most of the region's 50-odd pork producers, he says.
They want the Federal Government to immediately halt imported pork and to look at subsidising pig farmers.
The Department of Agriculture is investigating the country's first two suspected cases of the post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS). It is believed to have been brought in through imported pig meat.
Mr Hannigan said if the cases were confirmed, it would be a case of when, not if, the disease turned up on the Northern Rivers.
There is no cure and no vaccine, and farmers estimate it could wipe out about 20 per cent of their pigs. They say a loss of that magnitude, on top of battling rock-bottom pork prices, will wipe them out.
Most pork producers are now operating at below the cost of production ? receiving $2/kg for bacon and $2.40/kg for pork deadweight, less than what they were get- ting 10 years ago.
"There's no two ways about it. If it is here it'll be in our piggeries eventually and the only way for us is out the back door," he said.
A Federal Court ruling last month found quarantine authorities had ignored warnings that pork imports would effectively guarantee the disease would gain a foothold here.
Mr Hannigan said the finding was probably too late. "We've also been fighting for compulsory labelling of 100 per cent Australian pork, and that plea has also been ignored," he said.
Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran was unavailable for comment, but his office has previously said it was committed to making the world trading system fairer.
The department's investigation is due to be completed this week.