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AU: Some stonefruit growers to leave industry due to fenthion ban

Some stonefruit growers could leave the industry following the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority's (APVMA) decision to ban the fruit fly insecticide, fenthion.

"If they (growers) were having second thoughts about leaving anyway, this could certainly be the final thing where it just becomes too hard, so time will tell on that," said Andrew Finlay, chairman of the peak stone fruit industry body, Summer Fruit Australia.

Mr Finlay says growers in the coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland, in particular, will struggle to control fruit fly, because there are more backyard fruit trees to host the pest and undermine control measures.

"I do know that down on the coast there have certainly been people who have gone out of stonefruit thinking that it's going to be too hard to control fruit fly.
Ban on fenthion announced

Fenthion Ban teaser
The pesticides regulator has announced a ban on the chemical fenthion, but it won't come into effect for another 12 months.

"There are others there who think they will be able to control fruit fly, so it will come down to an individual assessment."

The ban on the chemical fenthion won't come into effect for another 12 months.

Mr Finlay says most orchardists were aware of the review and the likelihood of the ban, so he hopes most will start working on alternative control systems for when the ban is in place.

"The alternatives are more expensive and, at this stage, I would say possibly not quite as effective as fenthion, but you can use a combination of bait sprays, or a pheromone technique that attracts the male fruit flies," he said. "On top of that, there are a couple of chemicals that have been registered for fruit fly control that work a little bit differently to fenthion, but if they are used strategically then that should be able to provide pretty reasonable control, I think."

Peter Darley, chair of the NSW Farmers Association horticulture committee, says the ban means 'time starts now' for manufacturers to speed up trials of alternatives.

"I'd only hope now that we have some chemical companies and, with the support of the APVMA, that we can fast-track some trial work and some registrations of chemicals that could be comparable to fenthion that we can use."

South Australian growers don't use fenthion, because the state is fruit fly free. However, there are always concerns about the levels of pest pressure on the state's borders.

The chair of Citrus Australia's South Australian regional committee, Con Poulos, says how much that pressure changes is now a big question for the industry.
Audio: Citrus Australia's Con Poulos explains what the fenthion phase-out will mean for South Australian fruit growers (ABC Rural)

"It's an unknown, and it's something we raised during the Senate hearings earlier this year."

Mr Poulos says the work of the newly-formed National Fruit Fly Advisory Group and the construction of a sterile fruit fly breeding facility in South Australia are encourage developments in the fight against the pest.
Bowen growers say new controls are working

Growers in Australia's largest winter vegetable producing region, around Bowen in north Queensland, have pre-empted the fenthion ban by working on new fruit fly control measures over the past seven years.

The Bowen-Gumlu Growers Association President Carl Walker says most producers already substitute fenthion for a different mix of 'soft-chemicals' applied in-field in accordance with what's known as Interstate Certification Assurance 48.

"We have fruit fly traps everywhere to make sure there's no incursion. What we're using now is going to have 99.99 per cent effectiveness."

Mr Walker explains while growers are able to send produce to the fruit fly free states of South Australia and Tasmania, the Western Australian Government is yet to approve the new system of pre- and post-harvest treatment.

"The biggest difficulty was getting it accepted through the departments and government channels. Proving it works it easy, getting all the relevant ticks and crosses that you have to do, is the hardest part."

Mr Walker is also hoping the New Zealand Government will soon endorse the new protocol, instead of insisting on irradiation treatment which is more costly to growers.

The New Zealand market is worth about $5 million annually to Bowen's horticulture sector.


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