12 December 2015

A new council has been formed to work with farmers and fruit fly management community groups across all states and territories to control fruit fly on a national scale. The announcement was made jointly by Plant Health Australia (PHA), the national coordinators of the industry-government plant biosecurity partnership in Australia,  and Horticulture Innovation Australia (Hort Innovation), one of the major funding contributors.

The Board of Hort Innovation approved funding for the three year commitment, supplementing funds contributed by the Australian Government and state and territory governments, which has allowed the joint industry-government council to go ahead.

Greg Fraser, Executive Director and CEO of PHA said that the national partnership to tackle fruit flies is a significant step forward for Australian producers and exporters.

“The aim of the National Fruit Fly Strategy that PHA developed a number of years ago, is to have a national system to manage fruit flies that is effective enough to prevent fruit flies being a constraint to sustainable production or a barrier to trade and market access,” Mr Fraser said.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]It will need a concerted effort by everyone involved to manage the pest, and that’s what the Council will do – drive coordinated efforts Australia wide.[/gdlr_quote]“This is an increasing challenge now  some common chemical controls have been removed as options for farmers. It will need a concerted effort by everyone involved to manage the pest, and that’s what the Council will do – drive coordinated efforts Australia wide,” Mr Fraser added.

“We have to get everyone to play their part – all governments including local governments, industry bodies, our research institutions, regional groups combating the pest on the ground, individual farmers and even householders in towns and cities who have backyard fruit trees.  It will only be effective if everyone focuses on controlling the pest at the same time.”

The new funding secured from Hort Innovation and State and territory governments will enable a full time national manager of fruit flies to be appointed to drive the Council’s agenda. This role will have strong links to the two new national positions established by Hort Innovation, the SITplus Program Director and the Qfly Area-Wide Management Coordinator. These three national resources will coordinate actives to ensure messages are delivered to all stakeholder groups.

Horticulture Innovation CEO John Lloyd said that the National Fruit Fly Council is an exciting initiative that supports the ongoing Australia-wide management of fruit fly.

“Fruit fly is a major problem for horticultural crops in most of Australia’s mainland states,” Mr Lloyd said.

“The HIA Board is very supportive of this next step in supporting the national focus on Fruit Flies, encompassing our co-investments in both medfly and Qfly through the SITplus program and the National SIT facility – currently under construction in Port Augusta, SA.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce congratulated Plant Health Australia and Hort Innovation for taking a leading role in coordinating the Council.

“I look forward to renewed national efforts to combat this pest – management of fruit fly in Australia is a big challenge,” Mr Joyce said.

“Fruit fly and other plant pests can affect our trading status, market access opportunities overseas and ultimately farmgate returns – and with about 75 per cent or more than $750 million worth of our fruit and vegetable exports susceptible to fruit fly, it’s important we get our management approach right.

“We know that trade underpins farmgate returns for Australian producers, and we’re committed to boosting profits for horticulture producers through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

“The Australian Government is investing $200 million to improve biosecurity surveillance and analysis nationally; $30.8 million to break down technical barriers to trade and appoint five new overseas Agriculture Counsellors; and $12.4 million to modernise Australia’s food export traceability systems to further enhance our food safety credentials.”

The Council will consider the management of Mediterranean fruit fly and the Qfly. There will also be an emphasis on exotic fruit flies that could, if established, significantly impact the ability of industries to produce marketable fruit.

The four main focus areas for the Council are:

  • Fruit fly management systems – activities for prevention, detection, eradication, and management of fruit flies
  • Market access – activities that will assist in securing entry conditions for horticultural produce into markets
  • Legislation and regulation – ensuring that regulation and legislative controls for managing fruit flies are in harmony both across Australia and with international standards
  • Research and development – ensuring that Australian R&D provides technically justifiable approaches and innovative solutions to meet the requirements of the three areas above.

The National Fruit Fly Council will take over the work of the National Fruit Fly Strategy Advisory Committee which has been driving efforts since May 2014.  Mr Fraser said that this committee, comprising industry and government representatives and chaired by and independent chair Mr Jon Durham, had made an impact at a national level by advancing the National Fruit Fly Strategy as an interim step.

“PHA appreciates the contribution of Jon and the other members of the committee for getting the ball rolling, but we’re very pleased that we now have this three-year commitment from industry and government to sustain the momentum.” Mr Fraser said.

Fruit flies damage a wide range of fruit and vegetable crops with the value of fruit fly affected industries being approximately $4.8 billion. The economic benefit of a national approach to controlling the pest was clearly demonstrated in 2012 when the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES) estimated that the benefits to of implementing the National Fruit Fly Strategy would be between $29 and $38 million per year.