10 Feb 2012

Blame shared on strawberry kit biosecurity breach

4:56 am on 10 February 2012

The Ministry of Agriculture is spreading the blame for a biosecurity breach relating to imported strawberry growing kits.

MAF review says errors were made by the importer, the exporting authority in the Netherlands and its own staff.

The kits, containing seeds, a clay pot and potting mix, should have been held in a quarantine facility for germination growth to rule out a range of horticultural viruses when they were imported last year.

Instead, 7000 kits were given full clearance. Thirteen hundred of those were sold through the Warehouse from September.

MAF issued a recall in November when it learned of the breach.

Director general Wayne McNee says it was down to a series of errors by individuals.

He says MAF is doing a major system review at the moment, working with Customs to look at the way New Zealand's border control is managed and this case will be part of that review.

Mr McNee says tests on the kits so far show they are free of disease.

Growers worried

But Horticulture New Zealand says the review offers no relief to concerned growers.

President Andrew Fenton says growers thank the MAF employee who raised the alarm after spotting the kits while shopping.

But he says they are disappointed border security was not robust enough to prevent the biosecurity breach in the first place.