DOUBTS OVER FRUIT FLY TREAT­MENT

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE - KAROLIN MACGRE­GOR

CON­CERNS over the ef­fec­tive­ness of cur­rent fruit fly fu­mi­ga­tion sys­tems are be­ing raised af­ter the de­tec­tion of an­other lar­vae in im­ported main­land fruit in south­ern Tas­ma­nia.

The lat­est de­tec­tion was made by a mem­ber of the pub­lic who had pur­chased a grape­fruit from the Hill Street gro­cery store in South Ho­bart.

Prior to ar­riv­ing in Tas­ma­nia, the grape­fruit had been treated at an ap­proved fa­cil­ity in Vic­to­ria.

The de­tec­tion comes just weeks af­ter changes to the tem­per­a­ture re­quire­ments methyl bro­mide treat­ment, aimed at mak­ing sure fruit en­ter­ing Tas­ma­nia is not in­fected.

Fruit Gow­ers Tas­ma­nia pres­i­dent Nic Hansen said the lat­est de­tec­tion raises se­ri­ous ques­tions about the ef­fi­cacy of methyl bro­mide to treat in­com­ing fruit.

He said the in­dus­try’s trust in the cur­rent sys­tem was grad­u­ally be­ing eroded as these de­tec­tions come to light.

“When you look at the world’s best prac­tice for treat­ment, it doesn’t in­clude methyl bro­mide, it’s all ir­ra­di­a­tion,” he said.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, but maybe the Gov­ern­ment needs to con­sider that no fruit comes into the state un­less it had been ir­ra­di­ated.”

Mr Hansen said un­like methyl bro­mide, which can im­pact fruit qual­ity, ir­ra­di­a­tion treat­ment is highly ef­fec­tive, safe and would not af­fect the prod­uct qual­ity.

At present there is not suf­fi­cient ca­pac­ity for ir­ra­di­a­tion treat­ment for all fruit and veg­etable prod­ucts en­ter­ing the state.

How­ever Mr Hansen said con­struc­tion of a large fa­cil­ity now un­der way in Mel­bourne meant that could be a fu­ture op­tion.

“It’s cer­tainly some­thing that as an in­dus­try we’ll be tak­ing to the Gov­ern­ment,” he said.

This week rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Gov­ern­ment met with in­dus­try to dis­cuss the first 70 days of the re­sponse to the fruit fly in­clu­sion in the state’s north.

Mr Hansen said while the in­dus­try over­all was happy with re­sponse, there were some ar­eas that could be im­proved.

“The Gov­ern­ment is will­ing to lis­ten and take on board any sug­ges­tion that we have as an in­dus­try and that’s re­ally good,” he said.

While the on ground re­sponse is mak­ing progress, Mr Hansen said the is­sue of in­fected fruit still get­ting into the state needs sorted out.

He said while there is ob­vi­ously also an is­sue with cross broader con­tam­i­na­tion in main­land states, the real prob­lem is treat­ment be­fore the fruit comes into Tas­ma­nia.

“I think Vic­to­ria has ba­si­cally given up on fruit fly, but South Aus­tralia is still work­ing hard on it,” he said.

“Tak­ing a sim­ple view of it though, if fruit is go­ing into a treat­ment fa­cil­ity, it should be com­ing out clean, and if it’s not we have to find out why.”

One pos­i­tive as­pect ac­cord­ing to Mr Hansen how­ever is the in­crease in pub­lic aware­ness about the fruit fly is­sue.

Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Wayne John­ston said the lat­est de­tec­tion showed how vul­ner­a­ble the state’s biose­cu­rity sys­tem was when re­ly­ing on in­ter­state agen­cies.

“I guess it raises ques­tions as the reliance of Tas­ma­nia on other states to do the biose­cu­rity on their end,” he said.

“We can’t pos­si­bly check ev­ery­thing that comes into the state, but this is an is­sue and it’s one the Gov­ern­ment is look­ing at as well.”

Biose­cu­rity Tas­ma­nia gen­eral man­ager Lloyd Klumpp said the fruit fly re­sponse was pro­gress­ing well and no flies have been de­tected out­side the cur­rent con­trol zones in north­ern Tas­ma­nia or on Flin­ders Is­land.

“We’re pretty happy with how things are go­ing at the mo­ment,” he said.

“We would be a lot more con­cerned if we were find­ing flies out­side the con­trol zones.”

Mr Klumpp said find­ing lar­vae in­side im­ported fruit was not un­usual and hap­pens on av­er­age two or three times a year.

He said sys­tems in the na­tional path­way will now be in­ves­ti­gated to find out where the prob­lem oc­curred.

“No sys­tem is per­fect, you’ll al­ways get some sort of leak­age through these sys­tems,” he said.

“The na­tional sys­tem is un­der pres­sure.”

The name and lo­ca­tion of the Vic­to­rian treat­ment fa­cil­ity in­volved has not been re­leased.

How­ever Mr Klumpp con­firmed fruit and veg­eta­bles be­ing treated at the fa­cil­ity are still be­ing sent to Tas­ma­nia.

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