Apple industry raises biosecurity concerns about latest step towards US imports


Fresh apples from the United States are one step closer to being imported to Australia following the release of a draft report by the Federal Department of Agriculture.

A risk assessment released by the department found 24 foreign pests found in Pacific Northwest states would require risk management.

The pests range from mites and maggots to bacteria and viruses, but growers have raised concern in particular about the bacterial disease known as fire blight.

Despite the risks, the report suggested imports could be allowed as long as certain biosecurity requirements were met.

Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) chief executive Phil Turnball said the organisation wanted the Government to impose strong safeguards.

“We’re very fortunate here in Australia … to not have a number of diseases, which allows us to grow clean, green fruit and allows us into certain markets overseas,” he said.

“Diseases can arrive on leaf matter that comes in a carton of fruit or come in the apples themselves.

“If they’ve failed to correctly identify the risks or they’ve put in inadequate measures, we’ll be calling on the Australian Government to say no to US imports.”

A large crate packed with red apples.
Producers fear insufficient biosecurity could see US produce spoiling the domestic barrel.(ABC Rural: Clint Jasper)

Call for broad response

Mr Turnball said some of the pests and diseases could also potentially impact the likes of citrus, cherry and blueberry producers.

“From our point of view these pests are much more than a nuisance, many of them don’t have any treatment so you’re forced to rip out the orchard,” Mr Turnball said.

The draft report for the review of the biosecurity import requirements is available on the Department of Agriculture’s website, where submissions can be made.

APAL will prepare a response to the report.

“We’re really concerned and really want other horticultural industries to participate in preparing a submission back to the department,” Mr Turnball said.

Pink Lady apples hanging on a tree.
Pink lady producer Joe Ceravolo says there’s no stopping imports, but stopping pests and disease is crucial.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

‘It’s about security’

Adelaide Hills apple grower Joe Ceravolo has said he would be putting forward a submission through APAL because he believed importing US apples could be a major biosecurity risk to his business.

“We are very fortunate in the industry in Australia to have really minimal diseases and insect pressure,” Mr Ceravolo said.

“This is all about security and keeping our industry safe from any of those biosecurity risks.”

Australia is not a large exporter of apples and there are a few varieties that the US produces in larger numbers than can be achieved domestically, such as the Honeycrisp.

“We have our own varieties, like Pink Lady and now Bravo,” Mr Ceravolo said.

“They’re both Australian apples and they are more conducive to our environment.”



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