21 Oct 2011

Strict inspections on NZ apples not likely to ease

2:52 pm on 21 October 2011

Pipfruit New Zealand says Australian inspectors are not likely to soften their approach to New Zealand apple imports.

Four Australian senators have ended an inspection of packhouses and production sites in Hawke's Bay at the invitation of the New Zealand Government.

Chief executive Peter Beaven says there were mixed reviews from the politicians.

He says exporters are frustrated that Australian quarantine inspectors are setting standards that are much tougher than for other markets.

The conditions were installed earlier this year after the end of a ban on New Zealand apple exports to Australia that had been in place since 1921.

Mr Beaven says the visit was intended to show the Australians first-hand that strict protocols are followed to ensure pests don't cross the Tasman.

He says he had high hopes for the visit, but several politicians seemed to have their minds already made up.

The first container shipment of New Zealand-grown apples reached Australia last week, following a number of smaller consignments.

South Australia

Meanwhile, the ABC reports that the South Australian Government has backed away from imposing quarantine zones as a response to apple imports from New Zealand.

It had proposed zones in the Adelaide Hills region and the south-east of the state as a way to lessen the risk of any outbreak of fire blight disease, which the Australian apple industry still regards as a threat from New Zealand apple imports.

State Agriculture Minister Michael O'Brien has conceded the agriculture industry indicated zones could be too restrictive.

They may also have breached Australian biosecurity protocols.

So he says the Government has opted instead for signs on roads and at properties.

The South Australian Apple & Pear Growers Association agrees with the decision.

It says zones could have obstructed the domestic apple trade, as well as imports.