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Growcom calls on Federal Government to show evidence to support controversial ginger biosecurity measures

Peak horticulture body, Growcom today called on the federal Department of Agriculture to show evidence that methyl-bromide disinfestation is effective against the Fijian burrowing roundworm.

This follows concerns from the ginger industry that live roundworms have been found in imported ginger, having survived quarantine fumigation.

Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie said the Department’s response to scientific concerns raised by the ginger industry around the efficacy of methyl bromide treatment had been breathtakingly arrogant.

“The Department is always asking industry to provide peer reviewed papers to back up any biosecurity concerns, so now we’re throwing the ball back in their court and asking them to distribute any papers specifically relating to the efficacy of methyl bromide fumigation as a disinfestation treatment for Radopholus similis, the Fijian burrowing roundworm which could devastate the Australian ginger industry,” said Ms Mackenzie.

“As far as we are aware, no such papers exist.

“The Department of Agriculture’s deputy secretary of biosecurity, Rona Mellor was on radio yesterday dismissing the opinion of respected nematologist Dr Graham Stirling and yet we have not seen any nematologist stand up and support the government’s position.

“Well now it is time for the government scientists to have their place in the sun and go on record supporting this treatment.

“All we are asking for is a suspension of imports until the effectiveness of this treatment can be confirmed. It is absolutely galling that the Australian taxpayer has funded the development of the Fijian ginger industry through an AUSAID project and yet the Government won’t fund these efficacy trials.

“We have no beef with the Fijian growers and understand the need to develop viable industries in the Pacific but that should not be done at the expense of our own growers.”

Ms Mackenzie said that overall the government response had been appalling, the Minister had trivialised the concerns of the ginger growers and the department had been dismissive of scientific evidence produced by industry without producing any of their own.

“This is in the same week as the Minister has put out a news release giving his personal commitment to see family-run and owned farm enterprises become stronger and more prosperous.

“Ginger farms are predominantly family owned and contribute $32 million to the Australian economy annually for fresh-farmed ginger. How are they to become ‘stronger and more prosperous’ if this Fijian nematode is given free rein in their industry?” she said.

“One hopes that the Minister’s conception of the family farmer does not stop at beef and sheep graziers, giving that the horticulture industry contributes $8.77 billion GVP annually to the Australian economy.”

Growcom, together we grow
Chris Walker
Tel: 07 3620 3844
Mob: 0408 014 843
Fax: 07 3620 3880

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