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The South Australian Grower – August 2011
Minimum biosecurity spells
end to effective quarantine
Plea for $21m to offset costs
❏ By ALAN DICK
THE Federal Opposition and the apple and pear
industry are mounting a backlash against proposed
import protocols for apples they fear would expose
the Australian industry to damaging diseases.
Shadow Agriculture and Food Security Minister
John Cobb says he will introduce a bill to give
parliament the right to disallow import permits if it
believes Biosecurity Australia is ignoring the
science and “putting trade before quarantine”.
And peak grower body Apple and Pear Australia
Ltd, in a submission to BA’s draft analysis of
existing policy for import of apples from New
Zealand, has accused it of ignoring the science.
APAL has also put a proposal to Agriculture
Minister Joe Ludwig for $21.9 million in aid over
three years to help the Australian apple industry lift
orchard productivity and supply chain efficiency in
the face of likely imports. The industry would commit
a further $102.8m to lift the total to $124.7m.
A study APAL commissioned estimated likely
imports from NZ, China and the United States had
the potential to cut drastically into farm income
and reduce apple production. But it also pointed to
relatively low productivity in Australian orchards as
one of the reasons Australian-grown apples would
be uncompetitive with imports.
The six streams in the accord, if agreed, would
be: future orchards beyond 2012 delivering
additional industry development programs, on-
farm tax incentives, facilitating pack house
consolidation, supply chain tax incentives,
registration of the Pink Lady brand in Australia and
wholesale market data collection.
Australia lost a long battle against apple imports
from NZ when the World Trade Organisation last
December rejected Australia’s appeal against a
previous WTO ruling that quarantine conditions
Australia was seeking to impose on NZ apple
imports did not conform to international
The main issue is protecting Australian apples
and pears against fireblight.
APAL believes the changes embodied in its
submission to BA’s draft will not contradict the
APAL chairman Darral Ashton said it was
“extremely disappointing” BA had reached a
position with effectively “unravelled” the efforts
that went into the Federal Government response to
NZ’s WTO complaint in relation to fireblight,
European canker and apple leaf curling midge.
He believed the recommendations of the draft
report were based on “an irrational and an
unreasonable set of conclusions”.
“Indeed, it appears that BA did not even have the
full NZ standard orchard practice document on
which the recommendations were based,” Mr
Mr Cobb said Australia’s “robust, science-based”
quarantine protections must not be compromised.
He said the proposed quarantine measures
concerning NZ did not have the same checks and
balances that applied to other countries, which set
a dangerous precedent.
“While we have Australian Quarantine and
Inspection Service inspectors on the ground in China
undertaking rigorous checks, in NZ we are expected
to simply accept that their practices adequately
manage their endemic fireblight risk,” Mr Cobb said.
❏ By PETER BRADY
COUNTRIES offering ‘basic orchard practice’ to
justify the importation of fruit and vegetables are
likely to hitch a ride on the precedent that will be
set if New Zealand apples are exported to Australia.
But the Federal Government appears content to
accept a risk analysis process that horticultural industr y
leaders believe is fundamentally floored.
Despite calls for the World Trade Organisation ruling
to be re-examined by economists and statisticians,
Biosecurity Australia is following a non-regulated
process that has little or no scientific basis.
“If you look at the requirements in its (BA) proto-
cols, they are things that would happen in any packing
shed in Australia,” chief executive officer of Apple &
Pear Growers Association of South Australia Greg
“Washing and brushing of fruit, cleaning dump tanks
basic orchard practice that’s hardly worth mention-
ing – is being purported to be something special. And,
except for the 600 fruit inspection (in a crate or con-
tainer) it’s being left to them (NZ).
“That’s a classic example of leaving the fox in charge
of the hen house.”
Mr Cramond said the NZ Ministr y of Agriculture
would use the countr y’s manual of Integrated Fruit
Production to export apples to Australia.
“There will be no orchard inspection, no regulation
of exporting orchards or packing sheds and neither
APAL nor BA, as far as I’m aware, have access to that
manual,” he said.
“If these are the protocols BA uses, everyone in agri-
culture should be aware of the precedent that could be
“NZ has three major pests
and diseases that could devas-
tate apples here – fireblight,
European canka and leaf curl-
“But the greater implications
■ Fox in charge of hen house
■ WTO ruling needs revisiting
■ Precedent to threaten quarantine protocols
☛ AT A GLANCE
APAL says WTO rules
contradict their intent
APPLE & Pear Australia Ltd believes the protocols it wants to regulate
the importation of New Zealand apples into Australia are within World
Trade Organisation rules.
“For example, the WTO sanitary and phytosanitary rules are in place
to reduce the chance of a pest or disease being transferred from one
country to another that does not have them,” a spokesperson said.
“WTO rules allow that product should come from a ‘pest-free place
of production’. That is all we are asking for in relation to fireblight,
that orchards be certified free of the disease before apples from those
orchards can be exported to Australia.
“NZ takes this concept further by demanding that, for example,
pears from Australia have to come from an area free of fruit fly. That
means fruit harvested within 80 kilometres of a fruit fly outbreak
cannot be exported to NZ.
“WTO also allows for verification and assurance that conditions are
actually met. For example, it is well-known and accepted that trash,
such as small twigs and leaves, is a high-risk carrier of the fireblight
bacteria. NZ has said it would transport fruit in trash-free cartons. But
what assurance do we have of compliance with that undertaking?
“That is why we have asked for statistically-verifiable inspections of
WTO also recognised there were higher risks associated with pests
and diseases if fruit came from an area known to have a high-
prevalence of a pest or disease. NZ had acknowledged that it had
regions with a high-incidence of European canker, but BA had not
sought to reduce the risk by restricting fruit from those areas.
Meanwhile, APAL has rejected “wholly and absolutely” the non-
regulated analysis and its recommendations in regard to the
importation of NZ apples.
It has also dismissed BA’s conclusion, as documented within the
Draft report of the non-regulated analysis of the existing policy for
apples from New Zealand (Draft Report) that:
“When the New Zealand apple industry’s standard commercial
practices for production of export grade fruit are taken into account,
the unrestricted risk for all three pests assessed achieves Australia’s
appropriate level of protection (ALOP). Therefore, no additional
quarantine measures are recommended, though New Zealand will
need to ensure that the standard commercial practices detailed in
this review are met for export consignments.”
are that incursions of the past decade – citrus canka,
myrtle rust, fire ants and the Asian honeybee – could be
just the beginning.”
Independent consultant Trevor Ranford says the criti-
cism of BA and the Agriculture Department stems from
their attempt to undertake a qualitative and semi-quan-
titive model not supported by accurate science.
“The government has accepted the WTO ruling and
reacted by coming up with an agreed timetable with NZ
(for importation of apples to Australia), rather than
doing an acceptable job,” he said.
“They need to go back to the responses and see where
the model is fraught.
“The department and, ultimately, the government
should have had this conversation after the panel made
Mr Ranford said there was a “strong need” for anoth-
er review process of horticulture – and agriculture – or a
precedent would be established that allowed any coun-
tr y offering standard farming practice to get their com-
“The WTO ruling needs to be pulled apart and looked
at with a fine tooth comb,” he said.
The Federal Government is under pressure from par-
liament to make public all documents and communica-
tions regarding the importation of apples from NZ to
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck moved a
motion on June 23 requesting the Senate order all mate-
rial associated with the development of the import pro-
tocol be presented by the Agriculture Minister. The
motion passed with the support of Independent and
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