The Australian Ginger Industry Association’s appeal to halt Fijian imports appears to have fallen on deaf ears, with Federal Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, refusing to suspend import permits issued to exporters from the Pacific island.
Fiji sent its first consignment of ginger to Australia last month, with the product hitting retail shelves in Sydney earlier this week. The Ginger Industry Association has raised considerable concerns about the move, and claim live round worms were found inside the consignment.
The Queensland Government supported the association’s assertion, calling the Federal Government to put an immediate ban on the imports. However, Joyce has insisted that trade will not cease.
“You can't suspend imports if they're finding a pest that's not actually a problem,” Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Commission. "If it was confirmed to me that the pest was an epidermal nematode, then I have a different issue, because we are not certain that it's the same genetic makeup as the species we have here in Australia.”
Despite Joyce’s assertion, the Ginger Industry Council have continued to campaign against the introduction of Fijian imports, suggesting there could be wide-spread consequences for the entire fresh fruit and vegetable industry.
“We suspected that Fijian ginger would still carry live round worms, despite quarantine officers gassing it with methyl bromide,” said Australian Ginger Industry Association president Anthony Rehbein. “We warned the Federal Government and they chose to ignore the advice of a Senate Committee, which said Fijian ginger should not be imported until further scientific work was done into the Fijian burrowing nematode (roundworm).
“The Federal Government’s own Senate Committee warned that it did not have the biosecurity measures to detect the roundworm when it was living inside ginger, and that it did not have any proven treatments to prevent its spread.”