Home' Grower : October 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- October 2012
By LECHELLE EARL
Communications and events manager
ONE could forgive Aussie farmers for throwing their
hands up in the air in dismay following the recent dismal
season, when prices fell down and yields grew.
Many began to seriously question their future.
Onion growers were certainly not immune to this, with
superior-quality yields gracing shelves for little or no
But the resilience of the onion industry, and the
horticulture sector as a whole, has shone through, with
many planting again this year in the hope of better
If mother nature permits, growers should once again be
producing high-quality crops, ensuring Australian
consumers have access to the best produce, grown in
the safest conditions.
We can only hope farmers receive adequate prices for
One of the best ways to ensure the viability of
Australian farmers is to ensure consumers buy local
Onion production adheres to stringent conditions,
ensuring only the best for Aussie consumers.
Realistically, there is only a six-week window when you
cannot get Australian-grown onions, particularly the red
The rest of the year, they are readily available in fresh,
picked or cold-stored forms.
The issue at hand has reached the corridors of power,
with politicians currently discussing changes to Country
of Origin labelling -- a move that would ensure
consumers know exactly whether the produce is
Australian-grown or imported.
But as a starting point,
should actively seek
Australian produce -- no
matter what the
Hope of better returns
ISERIOUSLY wonder how much
longer the horticultural industry is
going to put up with politicians
playing god with our incomes and
They are roaming around the world
signing free trade agreements without
having the slightest inkling of what the
consequences might be.
This might look good on their bio-
datas, but their lack of information and
foresight could easily wipe-out whole
industries in what was one of the
world's most biosecurity-conscious
This must stop.
These decision makers should be
made to negotiate with industry rather
than just tell us what will happen.
I have written in this column about
importance of the potato crop in South
We are the largest producers of pota-
toes with 477,000 tonnes followed by
Victoria at 322,000t and Tasmania at
We account for 34 per cent of the
national crop at a value of about $235
million. This is a very significant figure
and I'm amazed that our State pollies
aren't climbing over one another to
protect this industry.
I was pleased to see that at least
Senator Xenophon rallied some sup-
port in the Senate.
We went through all this pressure
when it was proposed that we import
New Zealand apples at great risk to
our industry. All those involved stood
up in defiance but their voices went
Is this really the way a democracy
The threat with importing NZ pota-
toes is that it carries a very likely risk
of zebra chip disease, which could
wipe-out our entire potato industry.
Although fireblight in apples is a
huge risk, we understand how it oper-
ates, and in a lot of cases, can identify
Zebra chip is an entirely different
story. I am not a scientist but my par-
ents did teach me to read. The more I
read about this disease and its means
of transfer, the more confused I get.
Scientists are still not totally con-
vinced they know exactly which
pathogen is the enemy, and although
they suspect it is transferred by toma-
to psyllids, there is are contrar y dis-
cussions in this area.
The zebra chip pathogen affects
many other species and we are not
sure what effect it is likely to have on
other crops and native plants. Sort of
opens up a can of worms, doesn't it?
NZ first noticed the disease in 2008
and as a result, 14 countries imple-
mented bans on various NZ crops.
Australia had blocked imports of pota-
toes but then expanded this to include
capsicum, tomatoes, cape gooseber-
ries, tamarillos and five other crops.
The disease can cause 60-100pc loss-
es in crops and has cost NZ about
$NZ 120 million, plus the loss of
export markets with other crops.
The disease has only been on our
doorstep for a few years and with all
the confusion that has been generat-
ed, I doubt if we are smart enough
not to risk our own biosecurity.
As with apples, we are self-sufficient
with potatoes and need to export --
Another area that concerns me is
that our researchers either work for
the government or are dependent on
government funds to continue their
When it comes to providing infor-
mation to politicians, they have to
work in a grey area because if they
don't come up with what the politi-
cians want, they may end-up picking
vegetables rather than researching
These people should have political
immunity as they are actually paid
from the public purse and we are so
dependent on their work.
Perhaps if our fearless political lead-
ers thought that the peasants might
rise and start court action to sue for
losses as a consequence of the intro-
duction of diseases of political con-
venience, they might stop, look and
This is one disease we cannot afford
to allow into our country.
I always value your comments on my ravings
so please make contact on 0419 591 894 or
with WALLY SPARROW
Trade with a conscience
Free trade agreements carry
huge risks of importing diseases
such as zebra chip which can
decimate our potato industry.
negotiate with industry
rather than just tell us
what will happen
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