Orchardists say ban risks crops

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The Hills Orchard Improvement Group (HOIG) is warning the Federal Government's ban on Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) chemical fenthion could devastate this season's stone fruit crop.

On September 12, the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) enacted a ban on fenthion, following its ban on the other main fruit fly chemical, diomethoate, in 2011.

Canning MHR Don Randall said the ban would hit WA fruit growers hard. "The last thing farmers want or need is further interference by our Commonwealth departments making it harder to control pests on their properties," he said.

"This will be a massive blow to growers in WA, particularly those around the Perth Hills area where fruit fly numbers are high."

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According to HOIG, Perth Hills fruit growers produce $40 million a year of stone fruits, apples and pears.

Spokesman Bruno Delsimone said stone fruits were particularly vulnerable to fruit fly and growers faced a 100 per cent crop loss without the treatment.

"Fenthion is the only effective treatment that kills fruit fly in all stages of the life cycle - from larvae to adult," he said.

"The ban will extend to home gardeners and we fear that suburban fruit trees will become a breeding ground for a massive explosion in the fruit fly population without this preventive measure."

Mr Delsimone said the WA horticultural industry was worth more than $9 billion a year and employed more than 63,000 people. Fruit and nut production was valued at $4 billion a year.

"There are 600 growers in WA who will be affected by the ban," he said.

"The industry is calling for the ban to be phased in over two years to allow for alternative controls.

"The industry wants to phase out the use of chemicals as much as possible but it will take time to set up area-wide management of fruit fly."

Mr Delsimone said the authority wanted to ban fenthion spray on fruit even though it said Australian pesticide residue levels were well below international standards.

He said no viable alternative had been found for fenthion, though options were being explored.

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