WA PORK producers are basking in the good times with prices about $4 a kilogram.
The price is in stark contrast to 15 months ago when producers were stuck in the mire with little or no options to improve profitability receiving as little as 80 cents a kilogram which didnt cover the cost of production while grain prices were high.
The situation forced some smaller producers to exit the industry, while others found themselves with excess stock and unwilling to see them go to waste, had them slaughtered and donated the meat to Foodbank WA.
WA Pork Producers Association (WAPPA) president Graeme Dent said in March 2018, the price started to lift and gradually increased to where we need to be on the back of the African Swine Fever (AFS) which has been decimating the Chinese herd and driving up demand.
Theres a lot of positives in the industry at the moment, Mr Dent said.
Twelve months ago we couldnt sell pigs producers were looking at shooting them.
Thats turned around with the most buoyant prices weve seen at $4 plus a kilogram now.
Fifteen months ago we were getting 80c/kg and losing megabucks.
Pigs were being killed in WA and shipped east for that price, repackaged and sold again in WA.
The huge turn around in the industry is due to the AFS in China.
They are chasing protein so its all about supply and demand.
Australia does not export pork to China directly and the Federal government is working to open up that trade.
Mr Dent said if Australia could export pork into China it would be massive for the industry and secure growth in the sector.
Its so political, Mr Dent said.
The numbers are also not here in Australia, so we have to be careful at the moment.
The industry goes in 5-7 year cycles and knowing that we have got to get a bit smarter in how we operate this time.
Whats happening in China has changed the whole game.
They are chasing any protein they can get and thats a lot of pork.
Mr Dent said in some areas of China up to 70-80 per cent of its pig herd had been destroyed while the total herd population across the country had been reduced by 50pc.
He said with reports of AFS in Indonesia and East Timor it was vital that the authorities did all they could to stop it from entering the country.
Its a major concern, he said.
Weve got to be very careful.
I know they are trying to do everything possible with targeting feral pigs, increased checks at the border and sniffer dogs up north, but with it right on our doorstep the whole country should be concerned.
ASF only affects pigs so far there have been no reports of humans suffering from the disease.
Federal Agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie announced a few weeks ago that the government had boosted biosecurity funding by $66.6 million to put more officers, detector dogs and state-of-the-art xray machines on the front line to protect Australia against the global advance of ASF.
If this disease gets in it could decimate our pork industry that contributes $5.2 billion to our farmers hip pockets, regional economies and the nations bottom line, Ms McKenzie said.
Right now the threat is ASF theres no cure, no vaccine and about a quarter of the worlds pigs have been wiped out because of it.
Mr Dent said it wasnt just an issue for the pork industry and there needed to be an increased effort to educate travellers as well as the community on the potential outcome of an outbreak of AFS in Australia.
This is a disease for all Australians to worry about, he said.
If it comes in it will tear the industry apart and take the thousands of jobs that go with it.
If this disease was to get in it affects all consumers because all protein prices will go up.
We cannot have that shell be right attitude to this disease.
I know the government has tough penalties but they really need to be strict on it.
There also needs to be more signage at airports because if its not in your face all the time you can get blase about it.
Mr Dent was elected president of WAPPA in late November, replacing Dawson Bradford.
Mr Dent had been WAPPA vice president since 2015.
He operates a mixed farming enterprise at Cuballing including a pig herd with 400 sows.