DAFF has commenced the risk analysis in response to a market access request from Vietnam

Citrus Australia has said it is ”closely monitoring” a biosecurity import risk analysis being conducted on fresh pomelo fruit from Vietnam.

Vietnam pomelo 2

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has commenced the risk analysis, in response to a market access request from Vietnam.

The industry body said it marked the first step in a process to determine whether pomelo imports from the Asian nation could carry harmful pests and diseases into Australia, and whether they would be able to establish and spread within the Australian environment.

Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said the peak industry body would ”hold DAFF to a high standard” during the risk analysis and any subsequent review of import requirements.

“As a member of the World Trade Organization, the Australian Government has an obligation to assess market access requests from overseas countries,” he said. ”Citrus Australia understands and accepts this process.

“The risk analysis has only just commenced, so we cannot pre-empt the outcome of this assessment,” Hancock explained.

“However, we will be monitoring the process closely and engaging a range of technical experts to ensure that any biosecurity risks are adequately assessed and managed appropriately.”

Small but emerging segment

Australia currently permits fresh pomelo imports from the US, Israel, Spain and New Zealand.

Imports totalled under 2,000 tonnes between 2018 and 2022, with the bulk of Australia’s pomelo supply coming from domestic producers.

Citrus Australia described Pomelos as a ”small but emerging” segment of the Australian citrus industry, with around 1,000 tonnes produced annually across commercial orchards in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Hancock said he saw limited opportunities for Vietnamese pomelos in Australia should market access be granted.

“Fresh pomelos are a relatively niche segment within the citrus market here in Australia,” he explained. “Thanks to an increasing production base of high-quality Australian-grown pomelos, we are seeing some category growth, but demand can largely be met by locally grown fruit.

“We expect major Australian retailers to honour their sourcing policies around prioritising fresh Australian-grown products, only turning to imported products outside of seasonal windows.

“Therefore, it’s hard to see a meaningful opening for Vietnamese pomelos that would make the commercial realities of exporting fruit to Australia viable.”  

Draft report in 2024

The risk analysis will review the science on pests and diseases of concern, and assess the biosecurity risks they pose.

The findings – including any proposed risk management measures – will be included in a draft report, which DAFF expects to release for public consultation in the first half of 2024.

Stakeholder comments received during the consultation period will be considered in DAFF’s final report, which will be used to inform the Federal Government’s decision on whether to grant market access.

Citrus Australia said it would review the findings of the draft report and actively participate in the consultation process to deliver the best outcome for its members and industry stakeholders.

“As an industry that contributes A$900m to the Australian economy each year, we can’t afford to take chances on matters as important as biosecurity,” Hancock noted.

“A breach of our biosecurity system could wipe out citrus production in parts or all of Australia.

“Citrus Australia will hold the department to a high standard throughout this process, ensuring that the livelihoods of our hard-working growers are not compromised by an exotic pest or disease incursion,” he added.