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Case study – Karnal bunt

Karnal bunt is the number one exotic disease risk for Australia given the significant export and economic impact. This is due to Australia producing about 25 million tonnes of wheat per year, accounting for 3.5 per cent of annual global production.

The Australian wheat industry is export orientated, shipping about 65-75 per cent of the nation’s total production to more than 50 countries. The majority of Australian wheat is exported in bulk cargoes with the top 10 importing countries accounting for 70-80 per cent of exports.

When one of these bulk cargo ships arrived in Pakistan in 2004, the Pakistani Government claimed that it was contaminated with Karnal bunt. This claim affected $500 million of wheat on the water at the time.

To prove that Karnal bunt was absent from Australia and maintain our area of freedom from the disease, thousands of samples needed to be collected, tested and have a negative result.

Plant Health Australia commissioned leading experts to develop diagnostic protocols for use in Australia and Pakistan to effectively test the samples needed to prove area of freedom.

Of the 28,000 samples of wheat tested, all were negative.

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