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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Federal Government backs import of Kiwi apples

The Mercury: Federal Government backs import of Kiwi apples [02dec05]

AN 84-year-old ban on the importation of New Zealand apples looks set to be lifted amid close scrutiny from Tasmania.

A new draft import risk analysis (IRA) released by Biosecurity Australia yesterday said New Zealand apples could be imported under strict conditions.

These include allowing Australian quarantine officers to be involved in risk management measures in New Zealand auditing the export certification process. Orchards with any visible fireblight symptoms would be banned from exporting fruit.

Treefruits Tasmania pomefruits council chairman Thomas Frankcomb said he and other local industry members would go over the risk analysis with a fine-tooth comb to decide whether it was worth the risk.

``This is the second or third draft of the risk analysis now and in the past it has been rejected and sent back because of industry concerns,'' he said.

``We don't feel it's a risk worth taking, but we will have to examine the report and see how much it has changed before we will know whether it will alleviate our concerns.''

The Tasmanian Government also promised to undertake a rigorous, scientific assessment of the latest draft report.

Primary Industries Minister Steve Kons said a review group made up of scientific and industry representatives would be established to conduct the review and prepare a submission for Biosecurity Australia.

Australia banned New Zealand apples in 1921 because of fears they could bring with them the disease fireblight, which is prevalent in New Zealand but not found in Australia.

Australia's apple and pear industry estimates a fireblight outbreak could cost domestic producers about $1 billion.

New Zealand's Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton and Trade Minister Phil Goff issued a joint statement welcoming the new IRA, but said they were worried about the conditions set by Biosecurity Australia.

``The government will study the document further and prepare a detailed submission,'' they said.

The apple IRA came in for criticism in March this year, when a Senate inquiry recommended the ban be maintained.

It found authorities had not given enough consideration to the economic consequences of allowing imports.

The latest draft IRA will be open for public comment until March 30, 2006.





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