Call to stop NZ potato imports

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Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has promised that no decision to import New Zealand potatoes will be made until a scientific review has been finalised.

Democratic Labor Party (DLP) senator John Madigan raised concerns in the Senate about a devastating pest that could wreak havoc on Australian crops if the Federal Government did not block the import of fresh potatoes from NZ.

The bug, known as the tomato-potato psyllid, causes 'zebra chip' in potatoes, meaning when cooked they develop black stripes that render them inedible.

"I'm advised the draft conditions for the import would require potatoes to be in bags or covered on arrival," Mr Ludwig said.

"All potatoes ... would be under quarantine management until they leave a factory, cooked and frozen in a plastic bag."

Mr Ludwig said no decision to import potatoes from NZ would be made until the contestable science-based review was finalised.

Australian vegetable growers have raised the same biosecurity arguments that have stopped Kiwi apples entering Australia despite World Trade Organisation rulings in favour of NZ.

They fear the bug could destroy Australia's $1.5 billion vegetable industry. <div class="endnote">

AAP </div>

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