NFFS Day 1 Sarah Corcoran

Tuesday 4 May 2021

National Fruit Fly Symposium

Introductory statements – Sarah Corcoran , Plant Health Australia CEO

Sarah Corcoran“The impacts of fruit fly in Australia are significant, with an estimated $300 million in lost production and trade each year for our horticultural industries.

Our growers, industries, researchers, governments and communities all play a role in managing this pest and Australia has a long history of trying to coordinate and achieve the best outcomes from their efforts.

Over the past 30 years, there have been coordinated approaches such as the Tri-state Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone (FFEZ) established in 1994 to protect the main horticultural production areas across Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia from the southern migration of the native Queensland fruit fly.

During the 1990s there was also the negotiation of national Codes of Practice for management of Queensland fruit fly and Mediterranean fruit fly – introduced to Australia in the late 1800s – to support our access to international markets.

And the risks to Australia from exotic fruit flies is real and ever present. It was in 1995 that there was a major collaborative effort to eradicate an incursion of papaya fruit fly (now known as Oriental fruit fly) in Far North Queensland. Following its detection near Cairns, further surveillance detected it in the wider Cairns region leading to the establishment of a 70,000 km2 pest quarantine area.

It was officially declared eradicated on 30 April 1999 after more than 20 months with no detections.

Close on the heels of the papaya fruit fly incursion was the detection of exotic fruit fly Bactrocera philippinensis in suburban Darwin, in November 1997. The eradication program began immediately, establishing a 50 km radius pest quarantine area around the site of the original detection. At the peak of eradication, approximately 80 people were employed in protein baiting and caneite block placement. This is a significant achievement for a small jurisdiction and it was worth the effort. B. philippinensis was officially eradicated on 31 May 1999 after more than 17 months with no detections.

Recognising the significant investment and strain the eradication of these two incursions had on horticultural industries in our developing northern regions – For example, in today’s figures, the eradication of papaya fruit fly that was undertaken would be an estimated $235 million.

Recognising the seasonal risk that migration pathways from our near neighbours present through trade and monsoonal weather events, Australia implemented an ongoing surveillance system to detect possible introductions of exotic fruit fly species to our north and ensuring that mainland Australia (including Tasmania) remains free.

To our north there has been continued steadfast support from the Queensland and the Australian governments, backed up by industry partnerships to protect Australia from the annual monsoonal risk of exotic species, under the Exotic Fruit Flies in the Torres Strait Response Plan implemented as a cost sharing program between industry and government.

SInce 2015 the initiative has sat under the Exotic Plant Pest Response Deed, as a replacement for the previous arrangements implemented by the Australian and Queensland governments. This move demonstrated the commitment from industry to maintaining this important activity, acknowledging that investment brings a significant return in protecting Australia’s horticultural industries and export market status.

Turning our minds now towards the further evolution of a coordinated national effort. The first National Fruit Fly Strategy that brought together industry and government was drafted in 2008 and involved comprehensive planning and proposals to support a robust national fruit fly management system.

Despite a lack of long-term viable funding to implement these plans, it has been through the good will of participants that several important issues have progressed;

This has included the development of a new Qfly sterile insect technique production facility and supporting research, progression of improved market access treatment options such as irradiation, improved online access to domestic and international market access information, and release of a comprehensive fruit fly diagnostic handbook.

Unfortunately these efforts were unable to prevent the spread of Queensland fruit fly into New South Wales and Victoria following particularly wet seasons in 2010–11 compounded by the significant changes to the availability of important agrichemicals during this time. There has been subsequent loss of recognised pest free area status in these states and many industries have been continuing to come to terms with living with fruit fly.

Recognising the need for national cooperation and coordination, the National Fruit Fly Council was formally established through Hort Innovation funding in 2015 and is administered here at Plant Health Australia.

The National Fruit Fly Council, Phase 3 is funded by Hort Innovation with contributions from state governments, and the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

The Council is unique in the biosecurity landscape bringing together governments, industry representatives, growers, and research funders to provide strategic advice and leadership on national fruit fly issues.

Recognising that in order for Australia to continue to be competitive on the stage of world trade this symposium hosted by the Council is being delivered to mobilise the full range of stakeholders around national fruit fly issues. With increased pest pressure and strained economies being felt across Australia, there is no better time to bring about a collective focus on how we can build future national success.

Over the next three days your participation in these discussions and focusing on the national outcomes will be critical to the long term viability and success of Australia’s horticulture industries.

Thank you again for registering: we have 380 registered participants which must be some sort of record.

It is my pleasure to now introduce Lloyd Klumpp, the Chair of the National Fruit Fly Council, to tell you more about current issues and what to expect from this symposium.”

Sarah Corcoran

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