OPINION: The decision by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to impose an immediate halt to live animal exports in the wake the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 off the coast of Japan is a sensible move.
While possum control for the purposes of TB eradication is an important part of the TBfree programme, it is not regarded by Ministry of Primary Industries as an “essential service” that needs to continue during the lockdown.
The Government has set a high threshold for what constitutes an essential service, and says pest operations, while important, have insufficient immediate impact on market access, animal welfare and food safety to qualify.
TB testing of livestock and slaughter surveillance at meat processing plants will continue to provide assurance of TB-free meat and dairy products.
OSPRI chief operating officer Matthew Hall says stopping possum control operations, while unsettling, is not expected to impact the overall progress of the TBfree programme, although it may affect eradication target dates in some areas.
“We will assess which operations will resume post-lockdown and update farmers and contractors accordingly.”
Possums are the main vector of transmission of TB between wildlife and livestock, and farmers are encouraged to safely continue possum control on their land while Ospris contractors are grounded.
Further guidance on the resumption of TBfree possum control will be communicated when a firm date for the end of the present circumstances has been established, Ospri says.