A new feral-pig supremo will be appointed to tackle Australia's growing wild pig population as the threat of African swine fever creeps closer to the nation's borders.
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has announced the position of national feral-pig coordinator as the federal government readies for a potential outbreak of the disease that threatens to wipe out more than 200 million pigs in China alone by the end of the year.
There is an estimated 25 million feral pigs roaming across 45 per cent of Australia, costing the national agricultural sector about $14.5 million a year through production losses.
Senator McKenzie said that cost would "balloon exponentially" if African swine fever reached Australia.
"As a transmitter of deadly viruses like African swine fever, infected feral pigs could carry the disease into locations of critical risk for pork producers," Senator McKenzie said.
"There would be widespread ramifications for Australian agriculture if our hard-earned international reputation for producing safe, clean and green food and fibre was damaged by a disease outbreak."
She said the heightened risk feral pigs present as a vector for disease meant "enough is enough."
Northern Territory and West Australian governments have recently readied feral-pig hunters for mass culls, now the federal government is investing $1.4 million over the next three and half years to support a national feral-pig coordinator.
Australian Pork Limited chief executive Margo Andrae said the coordinator would be based with the producer-owned pig industry body.
She said the industry, which employs about 36,000 through the food chain, would be hit with costs of up to $2 billion should swine fever enter Australia.
"This is a crucial opportunity to get on the front foot nationally to better manage feral-pig populations, both in the immediate context of protecting our industry from African swine fever and to reduce the agricultural and environmental damage feral pigs inflict across so much of the continent," Ms Andrae said.
"This role will ensure that reliable feral pig control methods are understood and used, and strengthen the on-ground work carried out by the states."
NSW Nationals Senator Perin Davey said her state had its "fair share of feral pigs" that did "not respect borders".
"We've seen the success of the National Wild Dog Action Plan - and we can mirror that with this feral-pig role, for the benefit of not just of the pig industry but agriculture more broadly and our beautiful environment."
- SMH/The Age