Concerns over mango imports from Pakistan

Kate PollardThe West Australian

A Perth Hills orchardist is calling for more investment to enforce Australian quarantine and biosecurity measures after mangoes from Pakistan, infested with fruit fly, were rejected by the UK.

Under import guidelines, mangoes from Pakistan can be imported into Australia subject to strict biosecurity requirements, but no imports have occurred to date.

A recent report in Pakistan newspaper the Daily Times, said there were prospects of a $4 million market for the country's mangoes in Australia over the next five years.

Brett DelSimone, spokesman for the Hills Orchid Improvement Group, is concerned about the rising risk of disease and pests from imported produce.

"These guys are exporting fruit that blatantly has fruit fly infestation and, the point is, it's fruit that should never have left the point of origin," he said.

In the last month, US stonefruit has been imported into Australia, sparking fears of Suzuki fruit fly as well as disease from Californian table grapes.

Mr DelSimone said producers were trying hard to reduce their chemical usage, but it was the first line of defence once a new pest or disease was established.

With the Federal election just weeks away, Mr DelSimone wants to see the budget for Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, which perform all the functions previously carried out by AQIS, increased.

"If we are going to allow more produce into this country, then it stands to reason, there needs to be a bigger budget to maintain a proper watch on what is entering. If there is 50 per cent more produce coming in, then increase the budget by 50 per cent," he said.

A spokesman for DAFF said a risk assessment was completed in 2011, giving a number of options for treating pests such as fruit flies.

These options include irradiation, vapour heat treatment and hot water dipping treatment.

"There are currently no Pakistan irradiation or VHT facilities approved by Australia," the spokesman said.

"Australia has recently approved one HWT facility after audits on the ground in Pakistan to ensure that Australia's strict biosecurity measures are met. Conditions have been updated on our website and permit application can be considered."

In the last six months of 2012, through the Imported Food Inspection Scheme, DAFF inspected 16,119 lines of imported food with 46,409 analytical tests applied. China, Thailand and the US accounted for more than 25 per cent of inspections with 63 lines from Pakistan tested.

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