Scare for NZ tomatoes and peppers

For fresh fruit and vegetable marketing and distribution in Asia
Gill McShane

BY GILL McSHANE

Scare for NZ tomatoes and peppers

New bacteria discovery sees export certificate withdrawn by Biosecurity New Zealand

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The New Zealand government has reportedly banned exports of fresh tomatoes and bell peppers until further notice after the discovery of a 'new-to-science' disease-causing bacteria.

The bacteria were found in January at three commercial glasshouses in the Auckland area on the North Island, prompting Biosecurity New Zealand to withdraw the certificate for exports until more is known about the bacteria, its transmission and distribution.

Biosecurity New Zealand director of border standards Tim Knox told local media he was unsure whether the export ban will be lifted by October, when exports of the two crops traditionally resume.

The New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has confirmed there is no human health risk linked to the bacteria, but said the pest, which is suspected of spreading the bacterium to tomatoes, could potentially infect other crops such as potatoes, kumara, chillies and aubergine.

Meanwhile, growers "urgently" need confirmation of the insects which are responsible for spreading the bacteria, according to Ken Robertson, business manager for Horticulture New Zealand's tomato product and fresh vegetable product groups.

"The key for our growers is to get 100 per cent confirmation of the vector, and then to deal to that insect," Mr Robertson said. "If you can control the insect, then you won't have the bacteria in the glasshouses."

In the medium term, Mr Robertson added that growers might have to return to using chemicals while they find and introduce more effective insect predators in glasshouses.

New Zealand's tomato and bell pepper exports are worth about NZ$41m (US$32m) annually. The main destination markets include Australia, Japan, the Pacific Islands, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

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