Australian MPs call for tighter restrictions over pear concerns
Following a three-week trip to New Zealand's fruit orchards, shadow agriculture and food security minister John Cobb, told the newspaper growers were confident apples were fire blight-free but did not feel the same way about pears.
"When pressed they are far less certain of their ability to maintain a vibrant pear industry which is just 1.5% of the size of their apple industry, because pears are much more susceptible to fire blight," he was quoted as saying.
He was accompanied by member of parliament (MP) Dr Sharman Stone representing Murray, Michael McCormack MP from Riverina and Dan Tehan MP from Wannon.
Dr Stone said her constituency Goulburn Murray grew more than 80% of Australia's pears.
"What we were able to stress to them is that we don’t want to sacrifice our pear industry for this disease," she was quoted as saying.
The delegation said their biggest concern was removing all the trash in New Zealand packing houses with three out of the 13 consignments they saw rejected.
"So obviously the fire blight risk has not been sufficiently addressed,’’ Cobb told the newspaper.
They said their major concern was that Biosecurity Australia could have done more under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules to reduce disease risk, such as mandatory orchard inspections.
Dr Stone described Australia's protocols as weak and said she found apples were not washed with disinfectant, some hadn’t been stemmed and were coming from orchards that had been affected by fire blight, the story reported.
"We should have in our protocols that you can’t send apples to Australia that come from an orchard that has an outbreak of fire blight," she was quoted as saying.