Fruit fly warning in Harcourt region

HARCOURT orchardists have expressed concerns about the Victorian government’s proposed changes to Queensland Fruit Fly management.

The government is recommending the pest be declared endemic across the state, taking away preventative measures currently enforced by the Department of Primary Industries across the Harcourt region.

The area has previously been declared a fruit fly free zone.

Katie Findlay from Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens, a certified organic orchard, said the proposed changes were “both good and bad” for growers around the area.

The changes will mean the removal of compulsory organic baiting of orchards once a week, and will heavily cut down on the amount of paperwork required to move fruit around the country.

“It has removed a big administrative burden,” she said.

While other conventional growers may be pleased about these changes, Ms Findlay said preventative methods were the only thing stopping fruit fly from reaching her organic orchard.

“If fruit fly gets into the area, conventional growers have chemical options. For us, prevention is really important,” she said. 

“Now it’s an individual decision for each grower to decide whether they will continue baiting.

“There’s potentially a lot more risk across the area.”

This sentiment was echoed by Harcourt apple producer and Fruit Growers’ Association executive committee member Gavin Lang. 

“If small outbreaks aren’t monitored and managed by the DPI it could impact severely on the district,” he said.

Mr Lang said there had been a lack of communication between the DPI and growers on the changes.

“It’s all very up in the air,” he said. “We’re still unsure what it all means.” 

The Victorian Farmer’s Federation is organising several forums with farmers around the state in response to the proposed changes.

They have called the changes a cost-shifting exercise by the government. 

“The decision seems to be cost-driven rather than based on an achievable outcome,” Victorian Farmers Federation horticulture president Sue Finger said.

“It will save money for the government. An endemic declaration would mean DPI no longer funds programs to assist growers to control the pest. All costs will go back to the grower.”

The VFF is calling on the government to hold off on a decision before more research is undertaken.

“We want all governments and peak industry bodies to look at putting money together to work out the best way of doing things and solving the problem long term,” Ms Finger said. “(We are) trying to make sure what happens is best for the growers concerned.”

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