Stink bug invasion could cost New Zealand billions

A full-blown invasion by the brown marmorated stink bug would devastate New Zealand's fruit, vegetable and wine industries, destroying more than $4 billion of export value and costing thousands of jobs. This was voiced in a new report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that seems ever more relevant after the recent discoveries of this pest in several car shipments.

Over 100 of the stink bugs, which originate in Asia but have spread to the US and Europe, were found last week by Ministry of Primary Industries biosecurity staff in three car carriers that arrived at the dock in Auckland. But this is just the latest infestation. Border biosecurity patrols have discovered previously unheard of quantities of the imported beetles over the last two years.

Of course, stink bugs are nothing new in New Zealand. Most gardeners will have come across our native bright green, shield-shaped stink bugs, which suck sap from your vegetables. These insects, often called ‘ shield bugs’ are rather harmless.

But not their brown Asian cousins. A soon-to-be released report commissioned by Horticulture New Zealand suggests that if the brown marmorated stink bug establishes itself in New Zealand, the real GDP could fall by a minimum of $3.6 billion over the next 20 years, and horticultural exports could fall by $4.2 billion a year.

Chief executive of Horticulture New Zealand Mike Chapman: "If this stink bug arrives in New Zealand, it's going to devastate our horticulture, it's going to devastate our food production, it's going to devastate our rural communities, it's going to infest our homes across the country. It's going to take out people's vegetable gardens, it's going to attack their flower gardens. This is one really nasty bug."

According to radionz.co.nz, some farmers have compared the potential impact of the stink bug to that of foot and mouth disease outbreaks in animals; Mr Chapman likens it to the impact of the bacteria PSA, which devastated kiwifruit growers.


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