NZ: Zespri issues Streptomycin warning to kiwifruit growers
As New Zealand kiwifruit exporter Zespri ramps up orchard inspections for residues from antibiotic Streptomycin, the company has distributed declaration forms to growers that must be submitted by Mar. 23.
The product is used to spray orchards infected with vine disease Psa but some farmers have used it in the incorrect way.
In a letter to growers, CEO Lain Jager said the risk of residue found on New Zealand kiwifruit in foreign markets could be "potentially very damaging" for the Zespri brand, market access and grower returns.
"Such finds would also be potentially damaging to New Zealand's reputation as a supplier of safe and suitable food products," he said.
The company is set to conduct more than 9,000 orchard tests for non-allowable residues along with in market testing.
As the season draws closer, the company has called on growers to declare the streptomycin status of their orchards. If growers do not disclose their unauthorized use, they will be reported to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing (MAF), their properties will be rejected from Zespri inventory and all costs will be recovered from the grower.
"All fruit found to have been treated with Streptomycin in an unauthorised manner will be required to be buried or mulched. An audit process will be conducted to ensure this is managed correctly," said Jager.
Jager said pre-season testing had given confidence that there were no residues when the product was applied in accordance guidelines, but not everyone has been playing by the rules.
"Unfortunately though, this testing has also encountered a small number of positive residues which are most likely to have resulted from applications of Streptomycin in violation of the conditions of its approval, such as post-flowering use or trunk injection," he said.
"We need your help in this situation, and trust that you understand that prompt disclosure will mitigate risk for the entire industry and may avoid you facing the prospect of significant penalties.
"Unauthorised antibiotic use will be detected by Zespri's 100% KPIN (Kiwifruit Property Identification Number) screen and in-market testing, and you should disclose any use, regardless of the number of vines treated on your orchard."