Citrus Canker outbreak eradicated in NT

Citrus April 10, 2021

Citrus canker, a significant bacterial disease of citrus plants that was detected in the Territory in April 2018, has now been eradicated thanks to the support of the local community and industry.

Through a national cost-shared program that ran from May 2018 to March 2021, the eradication program was critical for protecting Australia’s national citrus industry and international markets.

Nationally, the citrus industry is valued at $942 million, with exports valued at around $508 million, whilst the Australian nursery sector is valued at $2.6 billion supplying nursery stock into citrus industry and retail supply chains.

During the course of the National Citrus Canker eradication program, more than 270 employees worked on the eradication project supporting all elements from operations encompassing community engagement, compliance, science, and planning.

Funding was provided from the Commonwealth Government, state and territory governments, and citrus and nursery industry partners, noting the disease had the potential to impact the national citrus industry through loss of trees, reduced fruit production, reputation risk lowering prices for fruit into market, with the potential for loss of important international markets if left unchecked.

The community should be acknowledged for their role in supporting the eradication efforts with 6,192 host plants removed from properties and nurseries across Darwin and Katherine.

After a significant effort over three years, the Territory is now free of citrus canker.

This means that nationally, industry will continue to access important international markets and locally, our growers will be able to move plants and plant-related products interstate without additional treatments or inspections being required. This is important for ensuring our growers remain competitive and profitable.

Proof of Freedom was signed by the National Management Group for Biosecurity on 8 April 2021.

Work will now begin on adjusting the biosecurity arrangements back to ‘pre-citrus-canker’ times.

This will be a transitional process over the coming weeks. Once completed, all movement requirements will be lifted.

The National Citrus Canker eradication program has run over three years with an action plan outlining: community and industry engagement, compliance, movement controls, treatment, tracing, surveillance, epidemiology, diagnostics and science and recovery.

Nathan Hancock, Chief Executive Officer, Citrus Australia said, “This is a fantastic outcome for the citrus industry, due in no small part to the commitment from the NT government, compliance by local citrus businesses including nurseries and farms and most importantly the support of the community.

“We must all continue to play our part to prevent the introduction of exotic pests to Australia by not bringing plant material in to the country, even through the mail, but also as we begin to come out of COVID-19 international travel restrictions.

“As a party to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed the citrus industry's growers will bear a large cost for this response, but not as large as the impact of canker becoming endemic.

“We thank the dedicated staff at the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade who have managed to contain and eradicate citrus canker in the Northern Territory.”

Source: NT Government

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