Tough measures including making all people attending the key FOOD Week event Forage stand in a water bath for one minute have been introduced amid biosecurity fears.
People will also be asked not to wear any clothing they have worn while visiting a vineyard, particularly in Victoria, in the past seven days.
James Sweetapple, president of the FOOD Week committee, said the biosecurity measures had been tightened amid fears of phylloxera, a tiny pest capable of wiping out vineyards, spreading into the Orange region.
Forage involves people tasting wine and food while they take a 4.1-kilometre walk through several vineyards.
Mr Sweetapple said the biosecurity measures were likely to be extended to cover all visitors who went into the vineyard area of wineries at any time of the year.
It could decimate a whole industry. It could wipe the vineyard out. We would lose years of production. It is absolutely devastating.James Sweetapple, president of the FOOD Week committee
“Vineyard owners will be more diligent if visitors have been in potential phylloxera zones,” he said.
“It will be required on properties where the owners are taking things seriously.”
Mr Sweetapple said visitors would have to stand in the footbath, which contained a mild bleach solution, for one minute to ensure any bugs were cleaned off their footwear.
Until now people going to Forage have taken three or four steps to walk through the 3.6-metre long baths in a few seconds before entering the vineyards.
Mr Sweetapple said the measures could create delays at Forage, but he said organisers were looking at providing more water baths.
“That is going to create more logistical work for us but we are at the planning stage for that,” he said.
Mr Sweetapple said the seven-day clothing ban was important because it was now known the pest could survive on clothing for seven days.
He said Victoria’s Yarra Valley wine region was “one of the worst areas” for phylloxera after an outbreak about four years ago.
Mr Sweetapple said the risk of spreading phylloxera was greatest when people went into the vineyard.
“If you’re only going in the car park that softens [the risk]. If you’re going into the vineyard that heightens the risk.”
He said phylloxera was deadly to wineries.
“It could decimate a whole industry. It could wipe the vineyard out. We would lose years of production. It is absolutely devastating,” he said.
Mr Sweetapple said organisers would also be providing visitors with information about biosecurity risks.
“We are making it blatantly obvious. It is vital for our region. It is vital for every vineyard in Australia,” he said.
About 450 public tickets for Forage sold out quickly after going on sale on Monday. FOOD Week runs from April 5-19 this year and Forage is on Saturday, April 13.
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