MEDIA reports last week about a "ban on fruit", particularly in school lunchboxes, has been damaging to the horticulture industry, Horticulture Coalition of SA chair Angelo Demasi says.
Mr Demasi said the industry was "shocked" by what is now considered a miscommunication about the movement of fruit within fruit fly outbreak zones.
"Last week's media reports saying there was a 'fruit ban' in school lunchboxes was not correct," he said.
"There is a ban on moving fruit from fruit fly outbreak areas, but this has nothing to do with school lunchboxes - it's about ensuring produce in the outbreak areas doesn't move into other areas, unless you have a licence to do so."
The confusing messaging prompted a meeting to be held in Loxton on Friday between state government representatives, the local fruit fly committee and members of the horticulture industry, to discuss how to better inform the public about fruit fly outbreak zones and the management of fruit.
"We all agreed that the terminology in the media needed to be strong and consistent, which resulted in the government releasing more information on the outbreak area on Sunday," he said.
"There is also clearer, up-to-date information on the PIRSA website, which we have also shared on our Facebook page and it has been well received.
"It is certainly now a lot clearer what we can and can't do."
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Mr Demasi said the miscommunication caused a 30 per cent reduction in apple and pear sales and up to 50pc reduction in stonefruit sales this past week.
"Thankfully this week those figures have improved and we're hoping consumers are now getting the right message," he said.
But the state government's handling of fruit fly outbreak information has caused "chaos and confusion" for households, according to the Labor Party, which called last week's media miscommunications a "debacle".
"The government failed to adequately communicate bans on fruit in lunchboxes across the metropolitan area amid a significant fruit fly outbreak," opposition primary industries spokesperson Clare Scriven said.
"People want to do the right thing. But how can the government expect people to follow the rules when they have made things so confusing?"
Labor leader Peter Malinauskas said it was "remarkable" there had been minimal information provided about something that affects the day-to-day lives of so many South Australians.
"The lack of public communication on this important matter comes despite the government spending millions on political advertising campaigns about infrastructure projects and water bills," he said.
Metropolitan Adelaide hasn't had to deal with fruit fly outbreaks of this scale before, which is why we need everyone to be aware of the rules.- DAVID BASHAM
But Primary Industries Minister David Basham said the strict protocols put in place to eradicate fruit fly were the same as was in place under the former Labor government.
"The rules are clear - fruit cannot be taken off properties inside fruit fly outbreak areas - this includes both fruit purchased from retail and home-grown backyard fruit," he said.
"Metropolitan Adelaide hasn't had to deal with fruit fly outbreaks of this scale before, which is why we need everyone to be aware of the rules. It's extremely disappointing the opposition are trying to score political points and spreading misinformation during such a serious time for SA's food producers.
"SA has a strong record when it comes to eradicating fruit fly outbreaks and we need the public's help to minimise the movement of fruit and prevent further spread.
"If anyone is unsure of where the current outbreak zones are, please head to the PIRSA website for detailed maps and information."
Presently, there are nine Mediterranean fruit fly outbreaks in metropolitan Adelaide and three Qld fruit fly outbreaks in the Riverland.
Since the first metro outbreak at Blair Athol in December 2019, the state government has spent $17 million combating fruit fly, including the deployment of about 250 on-the-ground personnel.
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