Fruit fly under control in Australia's Tasmania, farmers eye overseas market

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-09 13:38:17|Editor: WX
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SYDNEY, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- As of Wednesday, Australia's southern island State of Tasmania has been officially fruit fly free, with authorities lifting strict biosecurity controls implemented to prevent the spread of the insidious pest.

Fruit flies were first detected on the island 12 months ago and since then measures which included spraying produce with methyl bromide, or keeping it in cold storage for weeks at a time, have damaged overseas exports and caused huge financial damage.

Now that the shutdown has been lifted, growers can once again look to lucrative overseas markets such as China and Indonesia which were affected when the restrictions took place.

"It's the end of that process where we've had controls to protect the rest of the state's fruit fly-free status," Assistant Minister for Agriculture Richard Colbeck said.

"The next stage of the process is to work with our trading partners to recognize fruit fly-free status for the whole of the state."

However, growers of the region's main fruit export, cherries, are concerned that overseas markets won't recognize the change in time to support this season's harvest.

In 2016-17, cherries made up 20.7 million U.S. dollars of the state's overall 22.8 million U.S. dollar fruit exports.

Cherry grower Shane Weeks told local media that he is hopeful the new status will quickly be recognized by overseas markets as he prepares to harvest the bulk of his crop at the end of the week.

"It would open it right up to us to export to China and Taiwan so we won't be restricted any more," Meeks said.

With Tasmania the only state in Australia to previously have been unaffected by fruit fly, many in the industry have been surprised by the occurrence and are determined not to see it happen again.

"It's been a bit of a wakeup call for everyone, we thought it wouldn't happen in Tasmania and it has," Meeks said.

"We've got to be more vigilant and keep and eye out and make sure it doesn't happen again."