AUSVEG has expressed deep concern about the quality and accuracy of a draft report released recently by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) Biosecurity, regarding the proposed importation of fresh potatoes from New Zealand.
The market access request will allow the importation of fresh potatoes from New Zealand for the purpose of processing.
“This report raises a number of concerns for the Australian potato industry as it is largely based on out-of-date analysis and unsubstantiated scientific claims, as well as lacking details on what is a highly complex and important biosecurity issue,” said AUSVEG Communications and Public Affairs Manager, William Churchill.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“This disease has wreaked havoc in New Zealand, with some New Zealand potato leaders estimating that Zebra Chip has cost their industry around $NZ 200 million, yet a report with an inadequate and out-of-date scientific basis will allow potatoes which potentially carry this disease into our country, placing local growers and processors at risk,” said Mr Churchill.
The Australian potato industry is one of the most significant sectors within Australian horticulture and was worth $614 million in 2009/10.
“AUSVEG is demanding that the inadequacies of this report are acknowledged by the Australian Government and that the import of fresh potatoes from New Zealand remain banned until DAFF Biosecurity can justify that these imports pose no disease risk to the Australian potato industry.”
“The Pest Risk Analysis upon which this report is based is from 2009. This makes this analysis incredibly out-dated considering the advances made in the scientific understanding of the Zebra Chip disease in the past three years. The report also fails to address a large number of other pests and diseases which affect New Zealand Potatoes,” said Mr Churchill.
“The draft report lacks information which would be considered standard industry practice to include in a report of this nature. It is unfathomable how a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedure could be overlooked in this report from DAFF Biosecurity,” said Mr Churchill.
The Zebra Chip disease complex can be carried in fresh potatoes and transmitted by an insect called the Tomato-Potato Psyllid. The Zebra Chip complex currently affects potato growing operations in New Zealand, however, Australia is currently classed as being free from the disease.
“The draft report proposes that New Zealand potatoes could be stored on Australian wharves in containers with ventilation provided by an open door or vent. This seems farcical as the Tomato-Potato Psyllid which spreads the Zebra Chip disease through bacteria contained in its gut, is a small flying insect which could easily escape through an open vent.”
“The poor scientific grounding and spelling errors contained within the report highlight the lack of caution and proper care taken by the DAFF Biosecurity regarding this matter which places our Australian potato industry at enormous risk. These concerns are not limited to the potato industry and many other Australian industries have raised similar concerns regarding import advice from DAFF Biosecurity.”
“In short, it is extremely hard to put faith in a document which has been prepared with such an obvious lack of attention-to-detail, especially when the future of the Australian potato industry is at stake,” said Mr Churchill.
William Churchill – Communications and Public Affairs Manager, AUSVEG Phone: (03) 9822 0388, Mobile: 0411 166 748, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org