Home' Grower : September 2011 Contents The South Australian Grower – September 2011
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Bad decision, huge impact
LENSWOOD apple grow-
er John Vickers (pictured)
Australia’s decision to allow
New Zealand apples into
Australia will affect the wider
“Like the ban on export cat-
tle, the ramifications will be
massive,” he said.
“They have just not thought
John and his family, Aberdeen
Orchards, have 26 hectares of
apples and 4ha of pears, and fat-
ten steers for feedlots.
“But if fireblight takes hold,
there will huge consequences.
A lot of people will be unem-
ployed – right through from
growers to production staff,”
“Communities like ours will
“BA has let us down badly –
they’ve just bent over to poli-
tics, which it was supposed to
be independent of.”
John says acceptance of the
World Trade Organisation
agreement is no reason to dis-
regard quarantine protocols.
“They are sending apples
from NZ without sur veying
orchards there,” he said.
“Pears are more susceptible
than apples, and that’s why
they don’t have an industry in
NZ or California.
“And BA has accepted that
they can use basic orchard
practice to justify shipping
apples to Australia.”
John says NZ producers can
land apples in Australia far
cheaper – and with less compli-
ance – than he has to contend
with sending a carton of apples
“They also get freight assis-
tance,” he said.
“I just don’t know where we
can go – we’re just expected to
compete with limited govern-
While Woolworths and Coles
had indicated they would not
handle NZ apples, John believes
at the first hint of a natural dis-
aster, things could change.
“It’s happened before,” he
THE Federal Government has
finally shown its true colours in
abandoning food security to the
World Trade Organisation’s so-
called level playing field.
There can no longer be any
pretence of protecting the clean
and green flagship, which is fast
disappearing into the black hole
of ‘free’ trade.
After saying during a fiery Senate
committee inquiry in late July that
he would not lose sleep if fireblight
spread to Australian fruit from
New Zealand apples, executive
manager of Biosecurity Australia
Colin Grant has started the process
of breaking down the nation’s
formerly solid quarantine walls.
Despite political outrage in the
major apple-growing regions of
Australia and a concerted
campaign in Canberra based on
scientific modelling, the
government last week announced
that fruit could be imported after
meeting only basic orchard
standards in NZ.
“It’s a classic case of putting the
fox in charge of the hen house,”
Apple and Pear Association of
South Australia chief executive
officer Greg Cramond said.
Federal Opposition agriculture
spokesman John Cobb tried in
vain to get his private member’s
bill – to block the importation of
NZ apples – a hearing last week
and Tasmanian Senator Richard
Colbeck made a spirited effort to
reply to the government’s defence
of its decision.
But the die was cast.
And the reality of the precedent
set will have enormous
consequences for agriculture.
If fireblight devastates the $550
million apple industry and BA
continues to base its quarantine
assessments on WTO directives,
the very fabric of Australian
agriculture will be at risk.
Chairman of Apple and Pear
Australia Ltd John Lawrenson
says BA has abandoned growers
across the country.
“We lack confidence that zero
tolerance means zero presence of
trash in consignments; inspecting
600 random pieces of fruit per
consignment is just not thorough
enough,” he said.
“Frankly, once NZ apples start
coming into Australia, farmers will
be nervous just getting out of bed
in the morning because they will be
wondering if today is the day they
discover fireblight in their orchard.”
This is no mere glitch: “Trade
trumps biosecurity”. And those
words, from the president of the
Asian Association of Societies of
Plant Pathology professor David
Guest, will ring very loudly in the
ears of politicians when a major
pest or disease incursion happens.
But, like Dr Grant, they will bear
ALTAR OF WTO
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