Aussie horticulture gets boost from APHIS pest status recommendation
The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) report has made two recommendations for pest-free status zones in Australia.
Until now only three Australian horticultural districts and one state have been declared both Medfly- and Queensland fruit fly-free, but once implemented the recommendations will likely expand that area.
"Based on the review of the survey data and other information APHIS has concluded that the eastern part of Australia including New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria can be recognized as free of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata," the report said.
"Western Australia can be recognized as free of the Queensland fruit fly, Bactrocera Tyroni."
The recommendation still means quarantine treatment will be required for the new regions outside the existing zones of Riverland, Riverina, Sunraysia and Tasmania.
"However the treatments required are different for each fly, are less stringent than the treatments for both flies, and therefore are less damaging to the commodity," the report said.
The report highlighted natural buffer zones to prevent the movement of fruit flies between the western and eastern parts of Australia, while Biosecurity Australia has a detailed emergency response plan that APHIS was satisfied with.
The view down under
Australian Horticultural Exporters Association (AHEA) CEO Maxwell Summers says the decision could significantly reduce costs for the industry, and potentially open up new markets depending on the competitive factors at play.
Summers has told www.freshfruitportal.com the status could create new opportunities for a wide range of fresh produce categories for both interstate and overseas sales.
"At one stage we could ship a lot of products to the U.S. that we don't so much now; not only citrus like we do today but pears, grapes too I understand," he says.
"One of the things a lot of people have been saying is about getting products into the U.S. but unless you can do it competitively you're not going to export.
"In the case of mangoes I don't think you could have them fruit fly-free in Queensland, so I don't think you could send them to the U.S. without treatment. They'd have to be irradiated."
Horticultural exporter David Minnis says the decision won't have a great direct benefit to Australia as "other than citrus we cannot compete with Central and South American supplies of most commodities".
"If the United States will now apply the slightly shorter time for cold treatment to kill Queensland fruit fly then citrus shippers will have a two-day shorter cold treatment to comply with. However the vessels take 20 days to reach the U.S. West Coast in any event so for all intent and purposes nothing much changes," he says.
"However with the U.S. accepting this concept we can now argue in many of our Asian markets that they follow the U.S. lead. Since many such as India for example have based all of their fruit fly treatments directly on the USDA treatment schedules, then we will expect and demand concessions . This will help our fruit trade into South East, North East and South Asian markets."
Photo: Bugs for Bugs