Chemical ban will kill industry

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

WA fruit growers could face losses of up to 80 per cent if chemicals that combat fruit fly are banned.

Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) is reviewing pesticides dimethoate and fenthion for possible withdraw from sale if the products are found to be a risk to human health.

Orchardist Geoff Fawcett said if these chemicals were used correctly, they wouldn’t pose a problem to humans.

“When they are used as post-harvest dips, there may be some residues, but it’s uncommon in WA, ” he said.

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Mr Fawcett said if the chemicals were banned, growers could lose up to 50 per cent of their citrus crop and a whopping 80 per cent of stone fruit production to fruit fly. “We’ve got no effective alternative to control fruit fly, ” he said.

Mr Fawcett said growers felt powerless because their fate rested with a government agency, which they had no influence over.

The Department of Agriculture and Food as well as numerous farming and commodity groups are involved in a national response plan, which is working to develop viable alternatives should there be changes to the use of dimethoate and fenthion in Australia.

The Federal Government has also promised to work closely with growers if the chemicals are pulled.

The APVMA is still examining the matter, but a ministerial statement released last week might have given the game away.

“Early analysis suggests that some uses will not meet safe limits and are likely to be withdrawn, ” the statement said.

Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said the ban had the potential to cut $300 million from Queensland profits alone.

“I don’t want to sound alarmist, but it’s important that all of the measures that can be put in place around these two chemicals are done so, ” Senator Colbeck said.

The APVMA was meant to advise growers in October or November about whether they could use dimethoate and fenthion, however, a spokesman said a decision was not expected before the end of the year.

“When the APVMA completes the preliminary review of these chemicals, it will release a report for public consultation, ” he said.

“Growers will be given time to comment on the APVMA’s findings and proposed regulatory actions that may affect them.

“The APVMA understands that any changes to existing dimethoate and fenthion uses for fruit fly control could have a significant impact throughout Australia, affecting the whole fresh fruit supply chain.

“We, therefore, undertake to widely communicate the release of the preliminary review reports.”

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