DOUBTS OVER FRUIT FLY TREATMENT
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.