'Concerted effort' needed for fruit fly control, says Citrus Australia
Last week the Victorian state government in Australia announced it would be deregulating fruit fly controls, leading to concerns from some industry representatives about how this would impact exports. Citrus Australia CEO Judith Damiani says the industry is prepared for treating the pest with good export protocols in place. She tells www.freshfruitportal.com about negotiations to find a viable solution with state and local governments, involving a ramp up of control measures from the growers themselves.
Damiani says importers of Australian citrus have reason to stay calm, as the industry is working on several fronts to contain the pest, which is more of a threat as a production issue than an export problem.
"There's no panic here and the export destination countries don't have to panic because we are already treating for the pest - we have proven cold treatments in place," she says.
"We have a good track record of exporting with or without the pest, and it's just really about getting on top of the situation at the moment so that it doesn’t become a production issue.
"It's not a problem in terms of finding it [fruit fly] in the shipments. We’ve never had that problem found in our citrus in all our history of exporting, so we’re used to dealing with that pest - we don't want it and we’re making efforts to get rid of it."
A partnership approach
The plan is to make a concerted effort to control the pest this Southern Hemisphere spring in citrus areas, along with negotiations with state and local governments to hold off on the funding withdrawal.
"At this stage the information coming out of the Victorian government is not that encouraging for industry because they seem to be reducing their commitment or funding for control measures, and asking the industry to increase its contributions.
"That’s also been coming out of the New South Wales government as well and what we’ve done to work with the state governments, particularly in the Riverina district of New South Wales is to work with the local community and the local industry, asking growers to ramp up their on-farm controls.
"Unfortunately the industry has to step up in this fight against the fruit fly - what we're trying to flag is that the industry needs a little bit more time to try and put these orchard management controls in place or ramp them up."
She says a series of wet summers has made containment more difficult.
"Hopefully going into a more normal summer we’ll be able to manage the pest a lot better than we have in the last couple of years - we want the state governments to reconsider their reduction of funding while we put these practices in place.
"I’m not aware of the details of the funding cuts and when they’ll take place because the meetings have just started to happen, but I assume that they won’t be that far away.
"We just really need to let the governments know how important it is that we maintain efforts over the spring and summer so that we can at least have a good go at getting on top of the pest.
She adds it is understandable why the Victorian government has decided it is too difficult to control a pest across the entire state, but the industry is calling for focused efforts on key production areas like Sunraysia.
"They have indicated they’ll continue the focus in Sunraysia but they are still indicating even that this effort over time will be reduced, so what we’re saying is we need to keep up the effort in the greater Sunraysia area.
"It is a major citrus area and citrus is our biggest fresh fruit export out of this country, so it’s really important to maintain that trade and that income back to the community.
"We want to maintain that area freedom status which means we have to get on top of those pests now, and prove that with the data going forward."
She says a similar arrangement is needed in both states.
"If it's declared endemic [In Victoria] there would still be very specific areas that have area freedom status now; it’s not different to other pest free areas in the country.
"For example, most of the areas on the coast where Sydney is are endemic to fruit fly, but then you have areas that are low prevalence fruit fly areas and areas that are fruit fly free.
"It's really about the government maintaining those trapping grids to maintain the status that those different regions within the states have."
As part of its practical approach, Citrus Australia recently held a series of workshops in the Riverina region with around 200 participants.