Relief as Riverland fruit fly suspension to lift

Relief as Riverland fruit fly suspension to lift

Horticulture
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The fruit fly suspension zone will be lifted by Tuesday, but there are still some after effects.

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Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone (pictured right with Riverland Fruit Fly Committee spokesperson Jason Size, Citrus Australia SA region's Steve Burdette) said the release of sterile Qld fruit flies in the outbreak area was a key tool in eradicating the pest from Loxton.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone (pictured right with Riverland Fruit Fly Committee spokesperson Jason Size, Citrus Australia SA region's Steve Burdette) said the release of sterile Qld fruit flies in the outbreak area was a key tool in eradicating the pest from Loxton.

THE transport of Riverland produce will soon become less tedious with the fruit fly suspension zone set to be lifted late Monday night.

The lift comes nearly five months after Qld fruit fly was detected in Loxton in early December and a 1.5-kilometre outbreak boundary area was established.

Growers moving fruit and vegetables out of that area had to seek approval from PIRSA and had to meet the treatment requirements of the destination market.

A 15km suspension area was also established beyond the outbreak area, with growers within that zone also required to apply treatments in order to move produce.

Biosecurity SA's swift eradication program included baiting and hygiene actions, which was followed by the release of sterile flies in mid-February.

About two million sterile flies a week were released at 72 sites across the 1.5km outbreak area across an eight-week period, finishing in the first week of April.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said the release of the sterile insect technology was a first for the Riverland, vital to protecting the state's $1.25 billion horticulture industry.

There have been no fruit flies detected in the outbreak area since February 4.

A state government spokesperson said a baiting operation has since resumed to eradicate the sterile flies.

"We have spent the past week cleaning up, picking up fallen fruit and will finish off baiting sterile flies this Friday," the spokesperson said.

"These last steps are to ensure any flies have been successfully removed and the area is clean, ready for anticipated completion of the outbreak at the end of April."

Citrus Australia chair Ben Cant said while the suspension lift was pleasing, the industry would still feel the affects for a little longer.

"Yes, local movement restrictions are lifted, but we still need to wait for importing countries to re-instate the Riverland as a Pest-Free Area," he said.

"It could be a few more weeks before we can export to certain countries, while China has revoked the Riverland PFA for the foreseeable future and the United States suspension is until October."

Mr Cant also works for the Costa Group at Renmark, which has an orchard within the 15km suspension area.

"It has been an inconvenience for some of our early varieties," he said.

"Some of our limes we haven't been able to pack ourselves because our Renmark packhouse is within the clean area, so we've had to truck them to Mildura, Vic, to be packed.

"Our persimmons had to be sent to Melbourne for shipping, but they are thankfully being sent to non-fruit fly-sensitive markets.

"With the ban lift, we won't have to cold treat our navel oranges in transit, but we may not be able to export some of the fruit from that orchard to certain countries."

Mr Cant said he was looking to get back to some normality on Tuesday.

Riverland fruit fly committee spokesperson and Bookpurnong stonefruit grower Jason Size agreed returning to pre-outbreak conditions would be a relief for a lot of growers.

"It means less paperwork, less regulations and freer movement of produce," he said. "Hopefully growers can get back to normality relatively soon."

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