Growers praise Senate Inquiry into importation of New Zealand potatoes

A Senate Inquiry into the importation of fresh potatoes from New Zealand has been praised by the Australian horticulture industry.  Yesterday, Senators Colbeck, Xenophon, Nash, Madigan and McKenzie moved that the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee examine the validity of the scientific evidence which underpins the Import Risk Analysis for potatoes from New Zealand.

“This represents a significant step in the right direction towards stopping the proposed importation of fresh potatoes from New Zealand, which are infected with the devastating Zebra Chip disease,” said AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager, William Churchill.

The Zebra Chip disease renders potatoes worthless and coupled with the Tomato-potato Psyllid, has cost the New Zealand potato industry approximately $200 million. Australia is currently free of the Zebra Chip disease and the psyllid.

AUSVEG, the National Peak Industry Body who representing Australian vegetable and potato industry, has been vocal in its criticism of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), last week releasing an animation depicting the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, along with the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joseph Ludwig and the Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, as nappy wearing children toying with the local potato industry.

“The DAFF Import Risk Analysis (IRA) is based on outdated scientific evidence, yet DAFF Biosecurity refuse to update it, despite the wealth of recent findings demonstrating how the IRA is based on outdated information,” said Mr Churchill.

“This Senate Inquiry into the IRA highlights the lack of confidence that Australian growers have in the department charged with protecting Australia from exotic pests and diseases and the process they undertake to evaluate these risks” said Mr Churchill.

DAFF were left red-faced last week when claims made by a department spokesperson about there being no detection of the Tomato-potato Psyllid in consignments of tomatoes from New Zealand were contradicted by information on their website, stating that a live psyllid had been discovered earlier this year.

“This inquiry validates the calls of the Australian potato growing industry; that DAFF simply do not have a proper grasp of the science related to a pest which has the potential to destroy the Australian potato industry,” said Mr Churchill.


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