New Zealand has lashed out at Australia, describing the country’s ban on its apples as unacceptable.
Apple growers frustration over Australia’s continued ban on the import of New Zealand apples was strongly demonstrated at a Havelock North meeting recently, attended by more than 200 people.
A spokesman for NZ political party National said: “Unless substantial progress is made between now and the election, we will instruct officials to begin a World Trade Organisation case immediately after the election.”
Agriculture spokesman David Carter said the science is clear, as demonstrated by a United States case against Japan - fireblight is not spread by mature apples.
“The apple industry is under enough pressure as it struggles along with the rest of rural New Zealand from huge compliance costs imposed by Labour, without having to face a ban based on a fallacy,” he added.
The MPs said New Zealand has played the fair trade argument with honesty and are demanding that Australia does the same.
Meanwhile, the Australian government has backed its quarantine regulator Biosecurity Australia against the findings of two critical reports.
The reports, from senate committees, said decisions to allow imported Philippine bananas and New Zealand apples must be re-examined, and accuse the agency of covering up mistakes and minority reports.
However, minister Ian Macdonald says the government has already addressed the issues raised by the committees.
“The Government has overhauled the administration of Biosecurity Australia. We've established Biosecurity Australia as an independent agency, separate to the trade policy area within the department of agriculture fisheries and forestry, that occurred last year.”
Biosecurity Australia's risk assessment panel for banana imports from the Philippines has been reconvened, to look at the disease risks again.
Meanwhile fruit growers say they'll continue to campaign against apple imports from New Zealand.
They're concerned the disease fireblight, which affects New Zealand orchards, could wipe out the apple and pear industry, if apples are allowed to cross the Tasman.
Chairman of the National Fire Blight Taskforce John Corboy has welcomed the Senate committee report, and its criticism of Biosecurity Australia.
"We certainly are not relaxing in this issue. This is of great help because it's an independent body: looking at it, it's taken two years, taken extensive evidence from experts, etc.
"It's got to carry very significant weight, but it doesn't solve the problem at this point."
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