Quarantine imposed after fruit fly find in Whangarei

By Matthew Theunissen, BusinessDesk staff

The offending fly. Photo / MPI
The offending fly. Photo / MPI

New Zealand's horticulture industry faces an anxious wait to see whether there is a breeding population of a highly-destructive Queensland fruit flies in Northland.

A single male fly was found in a surveillance trap in Whangarei yesterday, prompting the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to impose restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables from an area of the city.

MPI has also increased its surveillance programme to see if there are more flies in the area.

Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine said the industry was collectively holding its breath while it waited to see if any more flies turned up in traps.

"This is an anxious time for all growers and the whole horticulture industry,'' she said.

"We are watching the response efforts very closely and providing support and advice to the ministry where we can.''

The flies posed a two-fold risk to New Zealand's $4 billion horticulture industry: the destruction caused by the pest and the on-going cost of attempting to control it; and the cost of potentially losing trading partners.

Kiwifruit Vine Health chairman Peter Ombler said the Queensland fruit fly was a widely-acknowledged threat to the fruit industry.

"But at the moment it's a single male fruit fly which does not constitute a breeding population so that's a much more preferable situation. However, we're not out of the woods yet,'' he said.

"As of today, the current situation shows that the surveillance and trapping programme is working and that's a good thing. It nonetheless reminds us that we run risks every day in the biosecurity arena.''

The quarantine area has been clearly marked on signs. Photo / MPI
The quarantine area has been clearly marked on signs. Photo / MPI

Mr Ombler said it was too early to say what the trade implications could be as a result of the discovery.

"There are obviously more likely to be trade implications for some countries [if a breeding population is discovered], but for other countries it could be a non-issue,'' he said.

"Yes we're concerned, no question about that because it is a threat, but as we sit here the systems have worked and we now have to go through a process to see if there's any further threat lying in front of us.''

MPI has sent field teams to Parihaka, near the Whangarei's port, and will set up additional traps to determine whether any other flies have entered the area.

"MPI is working closely with international partners and the horticultural industry to minimise the risk to New Zealand growers and exporters,'' it said in a statement.

"The ministry will have a controlled area in place, which will likely restrict the movement of fruit and vegetables out of the defined area.''

The discovery is the fourth time the fly has been detected in New Zealand, the most recent being in 2012.

The Queensland fruit fly is considered to be Australia's most serious insect pest for fruit and vegetable crops, and if it established locally, would pose ``serious consequences for New Zealand's horticultural industry,'' according to the ministry's website.

- APNZ

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