Growers fear fly pesticide ban

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

A chemical ban at the same time as a Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) outbreak could devastate the WA fruit and vegetable industry, say growers.

A female Qfly with eggs that was found in Highgate last month has growers fearing anticipated pesticide bans may come at the worst time possible.

Fruit West chief executive Amy Green said growers could be in danger because the chemicals now in use were set to be phased out in coming weeks.

Officials have long been reviewing the chemicals dimethoate and fenthion — commonly used to combat fruit fly — to determine whether they pose a risk to humans.

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There are no alternative chemicals able to be used in the fruit quarantine process.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority was meant to advise growers last November whether they could use dimethoate and fenthion, but reviews are still in progress.

The authority could not say when a decision would be made, only that it would be soon.

Compounding this, strawberry growers are still waiting for an effective alternative to the fumigant methyl bromide which they use for fighting pests and diseases.

Ms Green said an outbreak of any new pest at this time would have a big bearing on the fruit industry.

“Dimethoate and fenthion were particularly good for fruit fly and growers don’t have a good alternative,” she said.

“Strawberry growers aren’t currently spraying at all for it because it’s not a traditional host, but anything with a fleshy fruit Qfly will attack.”

Qfly was accidentally introduced into WA from the eastern states and later eradicated in 1990.

Since then Qfly traps have been installed throughout the State by the Department of Agriculture and Food to monitor for any further incursions.

WA stone fruit grower Mark Wilkinson said growers who were affected by Medfly would be better prepared for the pest, but many other industries were unaware that they could also be affected.

“We have had a bad Medfly year, so growers should be on top of their pest management regimes,” Mr Wilkinson said.

“There are a whole lot of growers who don’t know they will have a problem, such as tomato and strawberry growers.

“If the Qfly gets going they are going to have a big problem.”

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