Goulburn Valley orchardist Jamie Craig has called for the suspension of the importation of kiwifruit from Italy after a virulent plant disease there has now been found in New Zealand.
warned of the potential devastation to the local kiwifruit industry if Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae or PSA crossed the Tasman from NZ, although tempered his
remark by saying the exact strain that had popped up in NZ had not been confirmed.
"It's not too strong to say this is the fire blight of the kiwfruit industry," he
Mr Craig is a director of Fruit Growers Victoria with particular responsibility for water and spokesman for Kiwifruit Growers Australia.
Kiwifruit is worth more than $1.1 billion to the NZ economy and the country produces more than 360 000 tonnes of the fruit, second only to Italy (410 000 tonnes).
recently returned from Italy.
"I've seen the havoc it (PSA) can wreak," he
said, stressing that at this stage the disease had a far greater impact on the Italian `gold' kiwifruit than the Hayward variety grown here.
There are 6000 tonnes of kiwifruit grown in Australia, the lion's share in the Goulburn Valley with other commercial crops at Whorouly and Avonsleigh.
Bunbartha Fruit Packers produces almost 4000 tonnes.
Australia and the United States stopped importing kiwifruit plant material 10 days ago after PSA was found in an orchard in the Bay Of Plenty on NZ's North Island.
Six orchards are under quarantine and all produced gold fruit, with 112 ha all in a 10 km area.
But Mr Craig
would like Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to go further, saying there was not enough scientific evidence to prove the disease couldn't come into Australia on the imported fruit itself.
said Australians ate local produce between April and July, then NZ imports from July to December and Northern Hemisphere fruit from then until March.
"There's a protocol allowing fruit in from California, so in calling for a ban on Italian fruit we do have in place another source," Mr Craig