18 Aug 2011

Growers urge softly-softly approach as ban lifted

8:54 pm on 18 August 2011

Orchardists are urging a softly-softly approach as they begin exporting apples to Australia after the lifting of a 90-year ban.

Growers expect continued resistance by some Australians to having New Zealand apples in their shops after losing the fire blight row.

Biosecurity Australia on Wednesday issued its final risk analysis on importation of apples from New Zealand and is satisfied that any risks associated with introducing fire blight, European canker and apple leaf curling midge can be managed.

It is hoped the first New Zealand apples will be imported within days. But celebrations by orchardists are muted, as they say the market will take time to develop and will not be an economic bonanza.

Hastings grower Tony Gilbertson was part of a group which fought for access to the Australian market.

Mr Gilbertson says Australians are still smarting over losing the fire blight battle and New Zealand should be careful not to rush across the Tasman waving flags and proclaiming victory.

Pipfruit New Zealand says it will take years to build apple exports to Australia, and the market there will represent only a small percentage of overall sales.

Biosecurity Australia says quarantine inspectors will monitor the fruit supply chain and check test samples of apple exports.

Only commercially mature fruit will be allowed to be imported and the apples will need to be washed by high-pressure water spraying and brushed in the packing house to remove surface contamination.