Feral pigs are a threat to the environment, native wildlife and Australia's agriculture sector. Image by PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO

Environment

Feral pigs threaten Aussie bananas, pork

2020-07-22 17:41:41

Australia’s banana and pork industry are under threat from feral pigs, with groups calling for more funding to help control herd numbers. 

Australian Banana Growers’ Council deputy chair Leon Collins told a Senate inquiry feral pigs were spreading Panama TR4, a devastating fungal disease with no treatment.

The disease has spread to four farms in the Tully region in Queensland.

“Once you get it on your property that’s it, you cannot plant bananas there ever again. You have to grow another crop,” he said on Tuesday.

“Pigs have been the major factor of spreading it between these farms.

“Pigs know no boundaries.”

Mr Collins said bananas were Australia’s largest horticulture industry with an estimated value of about $1 billion.

Most of the industry is in far north Queensland, which also has problems with feral pigs.

Banana growers and the state government have jointly funded a control program since 2017 which has seen 6000 feral pigs taken out.

The program costs about $150,000 per year and funding will run out over the next year. 

The growers group has asked the federal government for funding.

The inquiry heard similar concerns from Australia’s pork industry, with feral pigs a problem as they’re able to spread disease to domestic pigs.

Australian pork chief Margo Andrae said the spread of African swine fever – which has seen 30 per cent of global pig populations die – as well as foot-and-mouth disease would be devastating.

“The feral pig herd poses a great threat to the Australian natural environment, native wildlife and is a significant threat to Australian agriculture and has been for many decades,” she said.

“For producers and employers the lasting financial, social and emotional devastation will be akin to the worst kind of natural disaster.”

Estimates from 1990 put Australia’s feral pig population at between 3.5 million and 23.5 million. 

National feral pig management coordinator Heather Channon says authorities are in the midst of putting together updated estimates.

Dr Channon is developing a national action plan for feral pig management, which is due for completion by the end of January.

She says more coordination is needed between the numerous groups doing separate work.

Ambitious targets, more funding and a national database is needed, Dr Channon added.

Because of the pigs’ reproductive rates there needs to be a 70 per cent destruction rate to reduce their numbers, she said.

The inquiry is looking into the impact of feral pigs, deer and goats.