The Victorian Government must defer scaling back funding for Queensland Fruit Fly eradication programs for at least 12 months, says the Victorian Farmers Federation. VFF Horticulture President Sue Finger said the state government’s decision to wind back funding from the program and declare Queensland fruit fly endemic comes at the wrong time.
The VFF recognises the cost of controlling fruit fly has risen to unsustainable levels, hitting $9 million last season. But the government has told the horticulture sector it intends to declare Queensland fruit fly endemic across most of the state and spend far less controlling the pest in a thin strip of land along the Murray River – from Barham to Mildura.
“Even the commitment to controlling fruit fly along the Murray River’s Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area is dependent on stonefruit, citrus and tablegrape growers stumping up 70% of any future funding,” Ms Finger said.
“Where are growers going to get that money at such short notice?
“We need time to find the funds and develop alternative strategies to control this pest without fear of losing access to our key markets which last year were valued at $152m in fruit exports alone.
“The government has told growers about its eleventh-hour decision just as they are about to head into the new season.
“There has been no real consultation with industry and yet the funding cuts are likely to happen within weeks, rather than months.”
Ms Finger said the decision goes against the government’s own policy of increasing productivity and profitability for Australia’s second largest agricultural commodity.
“Declaration of endemic diseases and pests could threaten access to key markets. The industry needs more time to consider the implications this could have on businesses.”
Ms Finger said the VFF, along with other peak industry bodies, needed more time to develop a paper which can properly address management options for fruit fly into the future.
“In planning for long term growth of the horticulture industry, we need to make smart decisions to ensure we don’t miss out on emerging opportunities,” Ms Finger said.
“Immediately declaring the disease endemic and cutting funding is the wrong move.”
Members are urged to call the VFF on (03) 9207 5571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to give their views.