The development of an industry-led committee could see orchards in Australia’s Sunraysia region regain their status as Pest Free Areas (PFA).
Victorian Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh unveiled the formation of the Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area (PFA) Industry Development Committee last week, which aims to combat 33 current fruit fly outbreaks recorded in the area and improve market accesses for the region’s growers.
“The Victorian Coalition Government understands fruit exports are vital to the Greater Sunraysia region and we are committed to supporting growers in this region in the fight against Queensland Fruit Fly,” Walsh explained.
The committee includes representatives from Sunraysia Citrus Growers, the Swan Hill Summer Fruits Development Association and the Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA), along with members of state and local governments.
Each year, growers will have the opportunity to vote on the size of their levy contribution, which has been capped a maximum A$3.50 per tonne. The charge in the first year will be A$3 per tonne.
Growers must make contributions if they have at least 150 citrus fruit bearing trees or produce at least 1,000kg of stonefruit or table grapes per annum. ATGA chief executive Jeff Scott said the new structure had been well supported by the vast majority of Sunraysia growers.
“Credit must go to the levy payers for voting this in,” Scott told Asiafruit. “Around 85 per cent of them who took part in a ballot earlier this year supported this move.”
Scott said the high level of industry involvement on the committee would improve response times and practices in the event of an outbreak. He added that the committee would have more autonomy than a government structure, opening up the potential to hire sub-contractors to perform regular testing.
Scott agreed that the committee would open up export opportunities for Sunraysia growers, both now and into the future.
“We need our PFA status back, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “If you look at Thailand as an example; it was once a key market for our grapes but they have cracked down on their quarantine right at the same time we lost our PFA in Sunraysia. This committee will not only work towards regaining the PFA as quickly as possible, but also provide a framework for maintaining the status once it’s approved.”