Australia: NSW bans NT citrus over canker scare

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Australia: NSW bans NT citrus over canker scare

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has issued a control order prohibiting citrus from the Northern Territory in response to a suspected case of citrus canker

The ban will apply for all citrus from the territory, including plants, fruits and leaves, for an 18-month period unless revoked prior.

The DPI's Deputy Director General for Biosecurity and Food Safety, Dr. Bruce Christie, said the tough stance was necessary to protect the state's citrus industries.

“We are still waiting on final rounds of lab results to confirm what we suspect is citrus canker. This diagnostic testing is complex and may take several weeks,” Dr. Christie said.

“At this stage, we don’t know how the disease may have infected plants in the Northern Territory, and all leads are being investigated to determine its origin and how far it may have spread.

“In the meantime, emergency response measures have been activated to manage any potential risk of the disease spreading."

He said DPI specialists at Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute were playing a vital role, testing samples collected from a wide-range of citrus from the Northern Territory as part of the response.

Citrus canker is a contagious disease caused by the bacteria Xanthomonas citri sub species citri, which can affect all citrus plants. There are also non-citrus hosts for this disease.

The disease presents as lesions or cankers and severely impacts fruit quality and yield. In the worst cases, it can cause trees to die.

Citrus is one of most important horticultural industries in NSW with a production area of around 13,000 hectares. We produce around 250,000 metric tons (MT) of citrus annually representing 40% of Australian production and 36% of citrus exports.

The Australian citrus industry is the largest fresh fruit exporter in Australia worth in excess of AUD$200 million (US$152 million) annually.

Citrus canker has been found in Australia previously and was successfully eradicated. The disease does not affect human health, animals or other plants, and infected fruit remains safe to be consumed.

Photo: APHIS, via Wikimedia Commons

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