29 April 2021

Australia has a number of challenges to manage Mediterranean and Queensland fruit fly, according to National Fruit Fly Council (NFFC) member and Nutrano Produce group technical manager, Steve Burdette.

In a pre-recorded video to be shown at next week’s three-day, online National Fruit Fly Symposium on 4 May hosted by the NFFC, Hort Innovation and Plant Health Australia, Mr Burdette warned there was insufficient new chemistry to control the pest.

There was also an increased risk of resistance due to the continuous use of chemicals to control it.

The third issue revolved around changes in the minimum residue levels on the export and domestic markets.

“This is making it extremely tough to comply with these new changes in legislation. But last year, the biggest threat was exotic fruit flies coming from the Torres Strait to Australia as these strains are more aggressive. We really need to engage with large pharmaceutical companies to start with a new chemistry and to make sure we are prepared for any exotic incursion.”

In an interview last week, National Fruit Fly Council chairman, Lloyd Klumpp said managing the impact of fruit fly in Australia was big business due to the estimated $300 million lost in production annually due to the impact of the pest.

“That’s why there is a need for a collaborative effort across the whole country.”

Mr Klumpp said fruit fly also impacted on Australia’s ability to trade internationally as well domestically because it was not spread uniformly across Australia.

“Since the last symposium in 2018 there have been significant outbreaks in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia,” Mr Klumpp said.

As a consequence of the outbreaks there had been a range of developments including extra funding for research.

“So, we thought it was important to run another symposium with the aim of bringing together a range of experts to talk about some of those developments, the management of the impacts of fruit fly and to continue that collaborative effort,” Mr Klumpp said.

“Hopefully the symposium will provide some guidance on priorities for the council and stakeholders to better manage the impacts of fruit fly.”

Another speaker at the symposium, Adam Briggs, head of data and insights at Hort Innovation, said produce that could be affected by fruit fly dominated the value of exports.

“To put it into perspective, five years ago, in 2014–15, the value of exports in terms of fruit fly affected produce was valued at $616 million. And this was around 40 per cent of the total value of export trade in horticulture.

“Moving forward to 2019–20 its value has more than doubled in trade to a staggering $1.48 billion and this now represents 54 per cent of export trade. So, this shows that fruit fly affected produce has become relatively more important to Australia’s export trade story.”

Also speaking at the symposium, David Daniels, general manager of market development for Citrus Australia said overall the citrus industry was in a fairly good position for export. “But ironically, where we might have some immediate challenges is with our domestic market access,” he said.

“We still rely quite heavily on the use of dimethoate for some interstate trade. There’s a cloud over the future of this molecule, as part of our arsenal against fruit flies. Regulators globally are taking a hard look at dimethoate so there will be some challenging times ahead.”

Hort Innovation areas research and development manager, Greg Chandler, said cooperation, ongoing research and longer-term blue-sky projects remained crucial.

He suggests blue-sky options could include looking at establishing a national grid of smart traps to detect multiple fruit fly species, as well as other high priority pests for industry using ‘real time’ data at the border and post border, which was internationally recognised and accepted.

To register for this free online event, go to the National Fruit Fly Symposium page.

Further information:
Christina Cook
Manager, National Fruit Fly Council
0472 868 282

Media inquiries:
John Carson
Partner, Agrimedia
0409 134 863