Two Australian inspection officers have prevented a potential incursion of citrus greening disease after seizing prohibited curry leaves at Melbourne airport.
The officers from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) discovered passengers traveling from India were carrying leaves and roots from the curry tree Murraya koenigii, infested with eggs and nymphs of the Asian citrus psyllid.
As this psyllid can carry citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), Australia has strict import conditions for citrus fruits and leaves, as well as parts of the related curry tree.
Plant Health Australia (PHA) CEO Greg Fraser praised the inspectors for having potentially saved the citrus industry and the broader community from an expensive incursion.
“HLB is one of the most serious diseases of agriculture and Australia doesn’t have it. It’s a bacterial infection that ultimately kills the plant,” he said.
“Diseased trees become a reservoir for the disease which is then carried from tree to tree by the Asian citrus psyllid. This was an important find.
“PHA works very closely with DAFF and industry members, such as Citrus Australia, to safeguard our crops from exotic pests. Without such a system, our agricultural industries would be susceptible to pest incursions that could cripple their production and profitability.”
Citrus Australia CEO Judith Damiani also applauded the officers’ efforts.
“HLB is a particularly nasty disease that California is grappling with at the moment. Australian growers don’t want the same problem. We’re grateful for the efforts to stop pests entering our borders,” she said.
“Citrus growers need to be vigilant as well. Early detection and reporting of HLB and the psyllid would be vital in the event of an incursion. We need people to report anything unusual.”