African tour aids biosecurity

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa will benefit from an innovative alliance in which senior African researchers visit Australia to learn new ways to fight crop pests and diseases.

The Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership, led by the Plant Biosecurity Centre for Co-operative Research, brought 15 senior Fellows to Australia to study biosecurity practices in an effort to better protect African farming produce.

But according to Plant Biosecurity CRC chief executive Michael Robinson, Australian agriculture would also benefit from the partnership.

He said with Kenya being one of the top two nations from which Australia imports cut flowers, improving biosecurity measures in African countries would have a positive spin-off for Australia.

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"If we can improve their ability to control pests, and demonstrate control of pests in those cut flowers, it reduces the risks to Australian agriculture," he said.

Dr Robinson said the initiative started with a workshop in Nairobi last year.

"We were looking at key pests of concern and key capacity building opportunities; and how to enhance those using Australia's world-leading biosecurity system, including our technical and science capabilities," he said.

The 15 Fellows, from 10 participating African nations including Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda travelled to Australia for a six-week study program.

The Fellows also spent three weeks in specific internships, with three of the Fellows studying in WA.

The Fellows visited Co-operative Bulk Handling, the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, Murdoch University, the wholesale markets at Canningvale and a flower farm.

Dr Robinson said he hoped the program would be repeated in future years.

The Plant Biosecurity CRC, based in Canberra, is supported by 27 organisations across Australia.

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