BA report leaves a sour taste

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

The apple industry is up in arms over the Biosecurity Australia (BA) report that recommends fruit be imported from New Zealand with less protocol than fruit that travels between Australian States.

The BA report on NZ imports has been closed for comment and results are expected later this month.

Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) chairman Darral Ashton said BA’s position reversed the stance it took in the World Trade Organisation dispute, but did not provide scientific evidence to justify the radical turnaround.

Mr Ashton said he was disappointed that complaints over the sanitary measures for three pests of concern — fire blight, European canker and apple leaf curling midge — had not been heard.

“Australia does not have fire blight, considered to be one of the most serious diseases of apples, neither does it have European canker or apple leaf curling midge, ” he said.

“We believe there are some conditions that could be applied that would reduce the risk of incursion of these pests and diseases to a very low, but acceptable, level.

“Trash, or small twigs and leaves, is a well known carrier of the fire blight bacteria and any consignment that contains trash should be rejected.

“We do not and cannot accept the recommendations of BA in relation to apple imports from NZ and we demand they be radically changed to provide this country with adequate protection against pests and diseases we don’t have in this country.”

Donnybrook grower Steve Dilley said the imports had the potential to be a significant threat to growers’ livelihoods.

“NZ will be able to import straight into WA and they will be by next year, ” he said.

“We are just astonished at how relaxed the protocol is and unless it is changed, Australia will be the laughing stock of the world.”

Mr Dilley said fire blight could spread like bush fire and could destroy entire orchards.

“And we don’t know the effects fire blight could have on our native bush, ” he said.

After meeting growers from Manjimup and Donnybrook last month, APAL director John Lawrenson said the issue was on everybody’s mind.

“We are counting down to the decision from BA and once they have been made, import permits will be granted, ” Mr Lawrenson said. “If there is no change to the draft, we are then facing very worrying times indeed.”

Mr Ashton said there were far fewer controls of fruit shipped from Australia to NZ.

“Stone fruit and grapes going from Australia have to be inspected by NZ inspectors in Australian pack houses, ” he said.

“But this protocol doesn’t require Australian inspectors to check NZ fruit in NZ pack houses.

“Fruit would come into this country with far less protocol than fruit that moves between States in Australia.”

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