Feral pig bounty call amid swine fever fears
AUSTRALIA'S pork industry is calling for a cash bounty on feral pigs as concerns grow about catastrophic African swine fever infecting domestic stock.
Feral pigs breed rapidly, with females able to give birth to up to 14 piglets twice a year. Pest packs commonly destroy crops and fences and have been known to eat lambs and other small wildlife.
Their numbers have swelled to over 25 million in recent years - defying the drought that has crippled NSW's agriculture industry.
Australian Pork Limited CEO Margo Andrae said they also pose a risk of spreading African swine fever - a virus sweeping across Asia that would could cost the pork industry $2 billion.
Ms Andrae said a bounty-driven nationwide cull would also provide much-needed intel about the pest, which outnumbers domestic stock five-to-one and could contaminate the national herd.
"Feral pigs are disease-carriers. We don't know where they are, what they do, and this is extremely problematic when trying to keep tabs on them," she told The Daily Telegraph.
It would follow a similar structure to the successful National Wild Dog Action, which includes bait and trapping, shooting and catching the pests.
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said feral pigs were a "blight on Australia's environment and agricultural production".
"With the threat of African swine fever pressing against our borders we need to mobilise and cull their numbers," she said.
"Earlier this month I announced $1.4 million for a national feral pig co-ordinator to work with the states as well as industry and researchers to tackle this problem. The co-ordinator can look at how a bounty could operate to reduce feral pig numbers, along with other control options."
The fatal virus has killed more than 32 million pigs worldwide and has been found in China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
NSW Farmers President James Jackson said the bounty could also provide some off-farm work for producers doing it tough. "There is a recession in regional communities because of the drought. Anything that could help put some money into their community is a good idea," he said.
"They're already a pest and farmers need to be aware of some getting some reward for it would be helpful."
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said there were already culling schemes in place.
"So far this year in NSW we have destroyed more than 10,000 feral pigs from across the state through a range of measures, including aerial culling, trapping and extensive ground baiting," he said.
PORK PRICES TO SOAR BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Australians can expect to pay up to $30 more for their Christmas ham due to a worldwide shortage of pork.
The cost of pork is up due to a surge in exports after African swine fever wiped out a quarter of pigs across Europe and Asia.
The price per kilo in Australia has increased between $2-$3 and whole hams are about $20-$30 more expensive than last year.
Stapleton Family Meats Gymea butcher Steve Hancock expects pork prices to increase even further.
"I expect the price would go up by another dollar or two by Christmas time," he said. "People should get in early and pre-book their ham."