Flower industry calls for more biosecurity investment amid cut-flower import fears

© Provided by ABC NEWS
Ecuadorian roses fresh from South America are sold across Australia. (ABC News: Armin Azad)

The Australian flower industry’s peak body is calling on the federal government to invest more money to protect growers from biosecurity threats.

$371 million biosecurity package was announced yesterday ahead of next week’s Budget, which included funding for freight container inspections, the management of international mail, research into how pests are entering the country and a public awareness campaign.

But Flower Industry Australia chief executive Anna Jabour welcomed the announcement, but she had hoped some money from this package would go towards better inspections of cut flower imports.

“The cut flower industry is an exotic pest and disease superhighway,” she said.

“While the Department of Agriculture claims to inspect 100 per cent of consignment, in reality less than 20 per cent of each load is physically examined.

“It is a huge concern for me and industry colleagues as diseases that could come in on cut flowers, such as xylella, could wipe billions from the local agricultural sector and devastate local flora and fauna.”

is not present in Australia at the moment but the bacterium tops the list of the National Priority Plant Pests because it causes devastating disease in many species of plants, including many agricultural crops, and there is no cure.

Call for COOL

Ms Jabour said one option to track such pests in cut flowers coming into Australia was adding country-of-origin labelling (COOL) to the product.

“I believe [cut flowers] are currently the only fresh produce in the country excluded despite being one of the highest risk pest pathways,” she said.

“The decision for whether cut flowers are added to COOL is due in June from the government and it would be brilliant if some of this money was used to help the industry adapt.”

In 2017, the Federal Department of Agriculture conducted a  which found high rates of pest detections on large numbers of imported fresh cut flowers at Australian borders.

It also found that some fresh cut flower and foliage exporters had inspection failure rates in excess of 50 per cent.

Vital investment

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who made the announcement on Tuesday, said Australia’s biosecurity system safeguarded the $42 billion inbound tourism industry and $53b in agricultural exports.

“This investment is about putting a protective ring around Australia to safeguard industry as well as the rural and regional communities that depend on it,” he said.

“There will never be zero risk, but we are committed to reducing the risk where possible.”

The Federal Department of Agriculture has been contacted for comment.

Source: Thanks msn.com