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AU imports Vietnamese dragon fruit despite safety concerns from farmers

Australia has imported dragon fruit from Vietnam for the first time despite the food health concerns of local growers.

The Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources finalised its review of the biosecurity import requirements in January with the first shipment arriving in Melbourne last week.

It followed submissions by Australian farmers last year on potential pests and contamination risks, and arguing against the move to open up the market to overseas competitors.

Northern Territory Farmers Association chief executive Greg Owens said, now that the fruit has been allowed into the country, testing should ensure it meets Australia's high standards.

"The protocols they've put in place have identified the pests and diseases of concern to Australia," he said.

"The measures that are put in place are reasonable as long as everybody adheres to them and there's a reasonable regime by which those protocols are checked against the performance of the country.

"Other concerns that our growers raised earlier were things that aren't covered by biosecurity but are more of a food safety issue, like chemical residue."

The first shipment of dragon fruit, which was believed to be around 3 tonnes, has arrived just as Top End growers begin picking this year's crop.

Mr Owens said it was yet to be seen how the additional produce in the market would affect local farmers' profitability.

"Competition is always an interesting component of our industry. It's part and parcel of a trading country where you've got fruit coming in and out," he said.

"Dragon fruit is a little bit different in that it's quite a small market, it's quite seasonal, and if large volumes come in from overseas that can have an impact on local growers.

"It also depends on what prices the Vietnamese fruit is getting when it gets here and whether that's compatible with return of growers."

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources told ABC Rural it remains unknown how much fruit will be imported given it was a commercial decision for importers and suppliers who can meet the import conditions.


Publication date: 9/28/2017


 


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