New kiwifruit threat found

By Kiri Gillespie, Natalie Dixon

1 comment
An imported pest was found in Tauranga.
An imported pest was found in Tauranga.

Kiwifruit growers want the government to toughen up the country's biosecurity measures after the discovery of an imported pest in Tauranga which poses a serious threat to the industry.

Two white peach scale insects and eggs were found on January 27 on kiwifruit imported from Italy.

The insects were spotted by a Plant and Food Research scientist and sent to the Ministry of Primary Industries laboratory in Christchurch, where they were found to be dead.

The pest is a serious threat to the $1 billion kiwifruit industry which had just started to recover from Psa, they said.

"This insect is worse on varieties like the gold, which has saved many growers here after Psa, Te Puke kiwifruit grower Peter Ombler said.

"We are certainly all concerned by this news and the implications if live insects were found," Mr Ombler said.

"The Government needs to look closely at the risks and be more serious about what they are doing to prevent things like this getting past them."

Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Barry O'Neill said the pest had a major impact in Italy after it was discovered there in 2004.

"It resulted in the loss of up to 20 per cent of the gold variety ... called 16A," he said.

"It's also a pest of other horticultural crops around the world. It's easily one of the more aggressive and significant scales [pests] in the world ... that would prove significant challenges to growers and producers in the market."

Mr O'Neill said the kiwifruit batch supplied to the Tauranga supermarket was also supplied to other local supermarkets of the same chain, which he declined to name.

Mr O'Neill said MPI inspected other fruit at the supermarket and production distribution site and had "stood down" its response.

The MPI had notified its staff to be extra vigilant in inspecting the incoming Italian kiwifruit, he said.

The Bay of Plenty Times contacted the two major supermarket chains, Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises, for comment but neither organisation responded before the paper went to print.

NZ Kiwifruit growers president Neil Trebilco said the discovery of pests could limit market access. "A number of countries we export to do not have this pest and they will not want our fruit if they thought we had it," he said. "They would cut us off completely, which Italy is about to find out."

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said New Zealand had a "world class, multi-layered biosecurity system".

"We've also brought in Government Industry Agreements (GIAs) which, once signed, will involve industry and Government working together on preparation and response to these kinds of threats."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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