Senate Inquiry into New Zealand potatoes validates industry concerns
AUSVEG CEO Richard Mulcahy today said that an Inquiry held this morning by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is validation of concerns raised by AUSVEG about the biosecurity risks to the Australian potato industry of fresh potatoes imported from New Zealand.
“The fact that a Senate Inquiry has arisen as a result of the oversights made by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry shows that there is legitimate concern at a national political level about Zebra Chip disease entering Australia with the importation of fresh potatoes from New Zealand,” said AUSVEG CEO, Richard Mulcahy.
AUSVEG, the National Peak Industry Body representing Australian vegetable and potato growers, has previously criticised the level of attention to detail and proper consideration of scientific research by DAFF to the pests and diseases of the New Zealand potato.
“AUSVEG presented evidence to the inquiry based on the latest scientific research into potato diseases, and we are hopeful that the Committee will come to the same conclusion as we have: That the biosecurity danger posed to the Australian vegetable and potato industries by the importation of New Zealand potatoes is simply too great a risk to take,” said Mr Mulcahy.
The New Zealand potato industry is affected by a number of diseases which are not present in Australia, including the devastating Zebra Chip disease, which renders potatoes worthless due to discoloration and a burnt taste when cooked. This disease has caused an estimated $200 million damage to the New Zealand industry.
“DAFF has made a significant number of oversights in regards to their risk assessment and these bring into question their accountability and reliability when dealing with an issue as important to Australia as biosecurity,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“In September, DAFF made a statement claiming that the Tomato-potato psyllid, the insect that transmits the Zebra Chip disease, had never been found in Australia, despite a contradictory statement on the Department’s own website this May stating that a live psyllid had been found in a shipment of tomatoes from New Zealand,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“There are a number of Senate inquiries currently taking place involving DAFF in regards to biosecurity matters and this highlights the lack of confidence that the horticulture industry has in the scientific practices of the Department,” said Mr Mulcahy.
Alongside potatoes from New Zealand, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is also currently conducting inquiries into the import of ginger from Fiji and pineapple from Malaysia.
MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Gurney – Senior Communications Officer – AUSVEG
Phone: (03) 9822 0388, Mobile: 0410 047 432, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org