I was invited to speak at the Biosecurity Forum in Auckland last December, on the topic of how we manage biosecurity in the avocado industry.
Raising the profile of biosecurity
Something that jumped out for me as I prepared my presentation is the significant jump in capability we have across our industry, particularly across my team and the board. I am sure this is mirrored across most horticulture sectors.
The avocado industry is now a signatory to the Government Industry Agreement and have signed the Fruit Fly Operational Agreement. We now sit at the table with a wide range of other agriculture industries and are accountable in partnership with the Government for setting and implementing strategies for readiness and response for exotic pests and diseases. Whereas four or so years ago, biosecurity for our industry sat with our technical staff alone – we now need as an industry, to understand much more widely the implications of biosecurity. We are now paying for it and because we work in partnership with other sectors we need to ensure our industry and horticulture in general gets the priority it deserves. Biosecurity is the biggest threat to our industry and as industry leaders we need to know the detail about how we are protecting ourselves and mitigating this risk.
The avocado industry, like many other primary sectors, invests in a dedicated biosecurity manager. Our biosecurity manager, Brad Siebert, is in daily contact his counterparts from the horticulture, viticulture and forestry sectors and meets regularly to exchange information and strategies to build our collective biosecurity capability. Part of his role is to make sure our board, key members of our team and supply chain, and myself are upskilled on the activity we are undertaking to mitigate our biggest threats. Jodi Senior, our communications manager, works with Brad to develop key messages for biosecurity for our many audiences; growers, packers, the government and consumers. Marisa Till, our research manager, her team and other industry professionals moving onto orchards need to understand how they can promote best practice onorchard biosecurity to our growers.
We ensure every edition of our industry magazine, AvoScene, has a biosecurity update. This may be an exotic pest fact sheet, changes to biosecurity policy at the border or advice on how growers and their service providers can help reduce the introduction of pests onto their orchard.
Of huge importance to us now is the cross-industry discussion on brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The Horticulture link to the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) science collaboration
and other science partnership forums is stronger than ever bringing government, researchers and industry together to focus on key areas of concern. For example, a small group of primary sector representatives recently provided an industry perspective on upcoming B3 research proposals to get an end user view on priorities.
The horticulture industries are also supporting a number of initiatives including US researchers coming to NZ for a US-NZ Invasive species workshop (May 2017) and cross industry meetings focused on unifying on-orchard biosecurity messages.
A big focus is on building the relationships under GIA across industry and MPI that enable us to have in depth discussions and allow industry to gain confidence in MPI processes and actions. This dialogue also helps us to cooperate more broadly whether it be industry leading the application for the BMSB bio-control ‘Samurai Wasp’ or drive offshore BMSB mitigations efforts supported by MPI.
I summarised my presentation by suggesting that biosecurity no longer lives in the corner office but is now a priority for any primary industry. The impact of biosecurity can reach across the entire supply chain so as industries we must bring it front of mind and as industry leaders must build own capability around biosecurity. Biosecurity 2025 has widened that and suggests as an island nation that New Zealand must become a biosecurity team of 4.7 million where a collective effort across the country will see every New Zealander understanding the threat and through their own businesses help to manage their share of biosecurity risk. I’m hugely in support of that and hope as readers you’re increasing your own awareness to preserve this amazing environment we live in.