Biosecurity an ongoing grower issue

TASMANIAN fruit growers continue to face threats from fruit fly and blueberry rust as biosecurity efforts are bolstered against the risks.

Speaking at the annual Fruit Growers Conference last week, Biosecurity Tasmania general manager Rae Burrows said work was ongoing to improve border surveillance systems and resourcing, emergency preparedness and border compliance reviews.

The key issues facing Tasmanian fruit growers include the Queensland fruit fly and blueberry rust. Ms Burrows said between October 2021 and March 2022, 6967 individual produce inspections were undertaken by Biosecurity Tasmania, translating to 2.8 million individual fruits.

From that, 240 insect specimens were collected, most of which were dead, indicating that treatments being utilised on mainland Australia were effective. Only 10% of those specimens were identified as targeted biosecurity pests, with the affected produce re-exported or deep buried.

Ms Burrows said there had been 16 new outbreaks of blueberry rust detected in Tasmania in 2021/2022. This means Tasmania currently has 21 infected properties. “The impact on the grower is huge, each infected property is subject to movement restrictions; management plans are put in place and tracing investigation begin,” Ms Burrows said. “They can’t move berries, they can’t access domestic markets, it’s devastating.” National Fruit Fly Council chair Lloyd Klummp used his presentation to push for a nationwide framework that addresses the influences, presence and risk of fruit flies in Australia.

Currently there is no single approach in place to address fruit fly management. “We have a multi-billion sector threatened by these species, they affect the quality of fruit and the trade market access,” Dr Klummp said. From an international export view, only Tasmania and South Australia are deemed fruit-fly free. “We have a lot of advantages here like the Bass Strait and good border control processes, we have strong control of our destiny, but anything that increases the risk on the mainland means greater risk for Tasmania,” Dr Klummp said.

“We must keep the standards up in our national biosecurity system, otherwise there will be a loss in confidence in the Australian biosecurity system, then everyone loses. “100% of the fruit grown in Tasmania is vulnerable to fruit fly, a coordinated national approach is needed to ensure a healthy fruit fly management system.”

The Fruit Growers Tasmania conference involved farmers, industry experts and academics with a focus on labour and workforce issues, technology innovation as well as the biosecurity challenges.

FGT chief executive Peter Cornish said the event enabled growers to come together, network and learn. “It’s a great opportunity for our growers to get together and to raise the issues that we work with throughout the year, particularly about biosecurity, about trade, and about industry development,” Mr Cornish said.