Tasmania’s fruit fly-free status could be under threat, jeopardising millions of dollars worth of exports into lucrative Asian markets, a biosecurity scientist warns.
- Tasmania currently enjoys fruit fly-free status; opens up trade in key Asian markets
- Increase in temperature could allow pest to establish in Tasmania
- Climate change now considered factor in biosecurity risk modelling
Tasmania’s fruit growers currently benefit from the state’s fruit fly-free status, allowing them to sell fruit to Asian countries including China, Japan and Taiwan.
Fruit grower Tim Reid grows cherries and apples in the Derwent Valley, in southern Tasmania.
“If we have an outbreak of fruit fly in Tasmania it will exclude us immediately from all our major export markets,” he said.
That would cost growers millions of dollars.
Professor Anthony Clarke, a fruit fly expert with the national Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre, said Tasmania was facing a growing threat due to climate change.
“Slightly warmer conditions all season long increases the risk that a small [fruit fly] population can establish,” he said.
“A reduction of even two or three really hard cold days in winter increases the chances of fruit fly surviving during the winter period.”
Fruit flies have been declared endemic in Victoria.
“The flight distance of these flies is unclear, but like many insects they can get picked up on wind,” Professor Clarke said.
Growers concerned tourists not aware of risks
Phil Pyke from industry group Fruit Growers Tasmania said the threat was constantly in the back of the minds of growers.
As climate changes, that situation may change, but that’s going to take a long time.Biosecurity Tasmania general manager Lloyd Klump
“They are very nervous,” he said.
“Since it became endemic in Victoria the risks are really increasing.”
Fruit flies lay larvae in fruit, making it inedible, and means growers need to leave it to rot in the orchard.
Mr Reid said he believed the main threat of an incursion was from fruit brought in from interstate by tourists or locals who do not understand the risk.
“Public understanding of this is a real issue,” he said.
Biosecurity Tasmania (BT) now factors climate change into its risk modelling.
BT general manager Lloyd Klump said traditionally the cold winters in Tasmania had prevented establishment.
“As climate changes, that situation may change, but that’s going to take a long time,” he said. “That may take decades.”
BT is working on more modern, multilingual signage advertising the threat of fruit fly to be erected at airports and Spirit of Tasmania terminals.
The signage would replace temporary signage and is expected to be in place within weeks.