States and territories in deadlock over fruit fly management agreement
In November the Federal Government pledged $16.9 million to deliver high-tech fruit fly management across Australia as part of Smart Fruit Fly Management measure. States and territories were to sign up to the package with intergovernmental agreement and contribute additional funding.
Federal member for Barker in South Australia, Tony Pasin, said no government had committed funding to the strategy so far. "This is something that needs to be finalised … the Federal Government has put a funding proposal on the table and now we're waiting on them [states and territories] to commit to us," Mr Pasin said.
"If we see consistent and continual outbreaks then ultimately our relationship and status with our trading partners will be damaged. "There's been indicative support, but now we need formal support. We need the other thing, which is always the most difficult thing to achieve, and that is a funding commitment from each of the states."
Just weeks after the announcement SA experienced a fruit fly outbreak in the Riverland, an area internationally recognised as being fruit fly free.
In Tasmania multiple fruit flies were detected in several parts of the state. But despite the impact on SA, Minister for Primary Industries Tim Whetstone said SA would not sign off on the national agreement until the eastern states came to the table.
He said he would meet with Victoria and New South Wales Agricultural Ministers in February, chaired by Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud.
"We are working with the Federal Government to bring the other states with us," Minister Whetstone said.
Victoria's Government, however, said it is already invested in a $9 million strategy of its own funded until 2020.
It, along with Tasmania's Government, said the Federal Government's proposal was supported in principal, but both were yet to commit money to measure.
Prior to SA's outbreak grower associations told the ABC outbreaks were bound to happen if the National Fruit Fly Strategy was not improved.
A draft of this strategy was released in November 2008, outlining 20 recommendations for the industry, but since then the document has remained a draft.
The National Fruit Fly Council said it is leading a project to renew the strategy to be fully endorsed by all stakeholders.
The Federal Government said the newly announced Smart Fruit Fly Management measure is intended to support the decade-old strategy.
Growers in needs of improved strategy
In May the Tasmanian Government said the fruit fly outbreak had cost $5.5 million. While the SA industry has just geared into response mode, some growers have chosen not to export their fruit.
Venus Citrus is one of the Riverland's larger exporting companies that is in the 15 kilometre suspension zone. Manager, Helen Aggeletos, said citrus was at the end of the season, but the company had lost the opportunity to export because the fruit had to be treated, which costs between $3 and $4 extra per case of fruit.
"Even locally, like into Adelaide and Western Australia, we can't send fruit because of the fruit fly," Ms Aggeletos said. "We need to send fruit only to certain markets — markets that are not sensitive or don't have the restrictions on fruit fly. "If we want to send to markets that are sensitive, we need to treat the fruit, which at this stage our business won't [do] it because we're at the tail end of our season and we find that added cost is not warranted."
Ms Aggeletos said the current control measures needed to be improved to protect the region. She said the cost of losing the Riverland's fruit fly free status would be "huge".
Biosecurity SA's Nick Secomb has acknowledged the Commonwealth commitment to help fund a national fruit fly strategy, but said the other states are falling behind on SA's efforts. "We do need to take a national look at the Australian fruit fly system," Mr Secomb said.
Source: ABC Riverland