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Wool sector tested in virtual exotic disease exercise

Sheep Central, January 27, 2021

Exercise Argonaut has shown the importance of communications and traceability in the event of an exotic disease outbreak.

A VIRTUAL wool industry emergency animal disease response exercise has highlighted the need for improved communications and an enhanced wool traceability system in the sector.

Exercise Argonaut was conducted as a desk-top discussion exercise, delivered digitally (via videoconference on Zoom) over two consecutive half-days on 8 and 9 October 2020.

It involved a scenario of a suspected and then confirmed Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in a large family-owned sheep and wool enterprise, spread over three properties in the Goulburn district of New South Wales.

In a rising market, wool from one of the affected farms had already been tested and sold and was ready to export; clean-up wools had been sold to a private buyer, and other bales were at various stages along the supply chain.

Exercise Argonaut was developed to meet a number of objectives to help improve wool industry preparedness and response activities. A final report has outlined key actions to be undertaken to better the wool industry’s position in the event of an EAD incursion.

WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall said the body believed Exercise Argonaut was very useful for the Australian wool industry in terms of clarifying roles and responsibilities in an EAD outbreak.

“While Exercise Argonaut demonstrated that the framework for a successful wool industry response already exists, the final report made a number of useful recommendations on how to strengthen these arrangements, including refining communications both in a response and in peace-time, the need for WoolProducers to establish an industry EAD Working Group and the need for enhanced wool traceability system,” she said.

WoolProducers said several of the observer participants from other industries have since indicated that they will undertake similar training, having seen the value of undertaking such an exercise.

WoolProducers is working with AHA to develop a workplan for the implementation of recommendations in the report and said it will work with other industry stakeholders to ensure the wool industry is as prepared as possible for an EAD.

Ms Hall said WoolProducers, as the signatory to the Emergency Animal Response Agreement (EADRA) on behalf of the wool industry, takes its role and associated responsibilities including industry preparedness, very seriously.

“Exercise Argonaut involved representatives from the entire domestic supply chain as well as state and Commonwealth government representatives, as we feel it is really important that key stakeholders understand what will happen to the industry if we are ever faced with an EAD outbreak.”

Apart from WoolProducers and AHA, exercise participants represented industry groups such as the Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors; Australian Wool Exchange; Australian Wool Innovation; Australian Wool Testing Authority; National Council of Wool Selling Brokers; National Farmers Federation; NSW Farmers Association; Victorian Farmers Federation; Wool Industries Australia and AWH, along with representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Click here to read the full Exercise Argonaut report.

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