“ONE of the darkest days in the history of Australia’s apple industry” is how Nashdale orchardist Peter Darley describes Biosecurity Australia’s decision to give the green light to the importation of New Zealand apples.
Australian apple and pear growers have been fighting the importation of New Zealand apples since the World Trade Organisation ruled there was no need for Australia to continue with its 90-year-old strict quarantine policy against its Tasman cousins.
Growers said relaxing quarantine measures for New Zealand apples could put the whole Australian apple industry at risk of diseases such as fire blight, European canker and apple leaf curling midge.
“This has never been a trade issue, it’s about diseases. Our climate is conducive to fire blight,” Mr Darley said.
The vice-president of the NSW Farmers Association said no country in the world had been able to eradicate fire blight.
“Once you’ve got, you’ve got it forever,” he said.
“I’m disgusted and disappointed that the federal government has allowed this.”
Local orchardist and chairman of Towac Fruit Export Co-operative, the company behind the Orange Apples brand, Tim Hall said jobs could be lost as a result of this decision.
“There could be job cuts because of the imports and once the disease hits it will be hard for producers,” Mr Hall said.
Biosecurity Australia said they took into consideration the 65 submissions received during a 60-day public and stakeholder comment period when making their decision.
Biosecurity Plant division executive manager Dr Colin Grant said there were some changes made to the original report.
“Only commercially mature fruit will be permitted to be imported to Australia and all export fruit will be required to be washed by high-pressure water spraying and brushed in the packing house to remove surface contamination of pests and trash such as leaf litter,” he said in a statement.
The entire system will be audited and verified by Australian authorities before apples leave New Zealand and there will be another inspection by Australian quarantine officers of all consignments of apples when they land in Australia.
It has been reported in New Zealand media that Kiwi growers won’t waste any time in getting their fruit ready and the apples will be shipped across teh Tasman as soon as import permits are granted.