Citrus Australia calls for tighter controls after canker scare

Top Stories
Citrus Australia calls for tighter controls after canker scare

The discovery of citrus canker in a Thai-origin shipment of kaffir lime leaves in Melbourne has alarmed Australia's industry, with a grower organization calling for tighter border controls.

Citrus Australia chair Tania Chapman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) the industry could not afford a case of the disease in producing areas, having been through a citrus canker outbreak in 2004 that cost growers more than AUD$100 million (US$102 million).

"Obviously the citrus industry having gone through a canker incident once already is absolutely horrified at the thought of having to do that again," she said.

"Whilst we’re of the belief these lime leaves will be staying in the metropolitan region, which is a good thing, it’s not good enough that’s actually able to get into our country in the first place.

"The threat is that if canker does make its way to the orchard that the orchardist has no control over it, because once it is in one tree to actually eradicate it all of the trees in that region have to be removed - that's how quickly it can destroy our industry."

Department of Agriculture border compliance division head Tim Chapman, told the broadcaster it would not be fair to say the leaves "slipped through the cracks".

"If you think that 2.5 million containers come into the country every year, the system relies to a large extent on the importer honestly declaring what they’re bringing into the country - there are penalties if they give false declarations," he said.

"This is stuff that wasn’t declared, and it’s absolutely impossible for us to search every single container. I think the other point too is these are leaves which were frozen and they’re coming in to go into cooking.

"They're quite different to seeds or other propagatable material, which was the cause of citrus canker in Emerald several years ago; someone actually brought in live plant cuttings with the intention of growing them.

Chapman said it was very unlikely the leaves were going to make contact with growing citrus leaves, but it was still very important to minimize the likelihood of people bringing products into Australia illegally.

Subscribe to our newsletter