The New Zealand apples import issue

The New Zealand apples import issue
Prepared by APAL
New Zealand applied to export apples to Australia in December 1995 and since that time,
Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) and its predecessor Australian Apple and Pear Growers
Association have worked hard and smart to ensure that if New Zealand apples are exported
to Australia, that exotic pests and diseases present in New Zealand but not in Australia do
not get exported to Australia as well.
It took till November 2006 for the Final import risk analysis report for apples from New
Zealand to be published and in March 2007 the Director of Quarantine announced
importation of apples from New Zealand was allowed subject to a range of phytosanitary
The Australian apple and pear industry demanded even stricter conditions to be applied but
in December 2007 New Zealand lodged a dispute with the WTO on the basis Australian
measures were inconsistent with Australia‟s international obligations under the Agreement
on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).
This was a critical step. It effectively took the decision making process out of the hands of
the Australians and New Zealanders and put all power into the WTO, an international body
that is committed to free trade, not fair trade.
Australia was confident that the New Zealand science on fire blight would not stand up to
scrutiny and was not adverse to the direction the issue had taken.
Again APAL worked hard to support the substantial effort the Australian government put into
defending Australia‟s right to set an appropriate level of protection for the apple and pear
However, in August 2010, the WTO ruled that Australia‟s phytosanitary measures for New
Zealand apples were not justified.
The Australian government appealed however that appeal was lost in November 2010 and
as there are no further avenues for appeal Australia, as a member of the WTO, is obliged to
implement the independent reports of the WTO.
In December the Australian and New Zealand Governments agreed that a review would be
completed on 17 August 2011 (otherwise WTO would have appointed an Arbitrator to do
On 4 May 2010 Biosecurity Australia released a Draft of Non-Regulated Review of New
Zealand Apple Imports for public consultation in which it stated that the New Zealand
standard orchard practices were as sufficient quarantine standard to protect Australia from
a number of extremely damaging pests and diseases that are not present in Australia.
Since that time APAL has been canvassing all options left to make changes and that is via
the political process. They include responding to the review of the IRA with a detailed
technical response, via a media / public relations campaign, through lobbying politicians
(growers can help greatly with this process by contacting local members)
Current situation
Biosecurity Australia has relied on New Zealand‟s so called “standard orchard practices” as
the quarantine standard sufficient to protect Australia from a number of extremely
damaging pests and diseases that are not present in Australia.
The practices include:
Application of the integrated fruit production system, or an equivalent, to
manage pests and diseases in orchards
Testing to ensure that only mature fruit is exported to Australia
Maintenance of sanitary conditions in dump tank water
High pressure water washing and brushing of fruit in the packing house
A minimum 600 fruit sample from each lot of fruit packed is inspected and
found free of quarantine pests for Australia. (A „lot‟ of fruit is defined as a
single variety picked at one orchard on in a single day).
However, all horticultural industries in virtually all countries have standard practices
designed to minimize the risk and spread of pests and diseases but the efficacy of those
practices depends on many factors that are not always in the control of the orchardist or
industry personnel.
Our concerns
The standard practices, like any other code of practice, are open to the issues of:
Human interpretation and application of the standard practices, which invariably
differ from grower to grower and region to region
Human abuse or avoidance of procedures; without a significant level of auditing
there is no way of judging compliance to the standard orchard practices
(In New Zealand there appears to be no single organisation that manages/audits the
process across ALL export orchards to ensure accuracy and consistency, and deal
with non-compliance.)
Climatic events, particularly the one in ten year or longer events that are managed
on an as needs basis
Pest pressure, both on-farm and from neighbouring properties
Choice and efficacy of application of control agents
Orchard canopy and design
While in New Zealand it is mandatory to comply with standard orchard practices if fruit is to
be exported, it is not mandatory to have all aspects of the program conducted in the
expected manner.
The New Zealand standard orchard practices have been known to the Australian industry
and Biosecurity Australia since 1999 when New Zealand then applied to export apples to
What the Australian apple industry wants
APAL believes the following changes should be implemented before the draft
recommendations in the review of the IRA for apples from New Zealand are accepted.
That where a pre-harvest outbreak of fire blight is detected, fruit from that
block or orchard should be excluded from export to Australia
When a heavy infestation of apple leaf curling midge or leaf rollers occurs in
an orchard, that either the fruit be excluded or fumigated
That from each consignment, 600 cartons be inspected to ensure that no
trash is entering the country via the cartons. Trash is leaves and small
twigs that are universally recognised as carriers of fire blight. Should
cartons contain trash, those suppliers should be excluded from exporting to
Australia until a review of procedures is completed.
That high risk areas for European canker such as Auckland and Otago be
excluded from exporting to Australia.
That should there be a regional outbreak of fire blight, trade be suspended
until a review of procedures is completed and alternative protocols are
We believe these practices are consistent with practices applied by other countries to
implement their sanitary-phytosanitary agreements.
Indeed, the draft report accepts that to prevent codling moth becoming established in
Western Australia, “three alternate measures for codling moth are recommended:
Sourcing fruit from pest free areas, pest free places of production or pest free
production sites;
sourcing fruit from areas of low pest prevalence;
or methyl bromide fumigation.
Visual inspection was not assessed as an effective measure [for codling moth by BA] due to
the potential for infestations to be undetectable by visual means.”
Given this expectation for a low level pest for Western Australia, there is a compelling
argument for similar conditions to be applied for high risk pests. It is very similar to
conditions to which Australia must conform when it sells fruit to countries such as China,
Taiwan, Japan, USA etc. Those countries send their inspectors to Australia (at Australia‟s
expense) before fruit can be cleared for export.
So Australia needs a process whereby the above conditions can be checked and audited by
Australian AQIS inspectors and not left in the hands of those who stand to benefit from the
export of apples.
4 May 2011
Apple Announcement Sets Disastrous Biosecurity Precedent
The Australian apple industry has slammed Biosecurity Australia for recommending the
importation of New Zealand apples without limitation – a decision the industry claims will
set a disastrous biosecurity precedent for all primary industries.
The comments follow today‟s release of a review by Biosecurity Australia (BA) called „The
draft report for the non-regulated analysis of existing policy for apples from New Zealand‟,
which states that “no additional quarantine measures are recommended, though New
Zealand will need to ensure that the standard commercial practices detailed in this review
are met for export consignments.”
Chairman of Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, Darral Ashton, said this meant that Australia has
put total trust in the New Zealand industry that stood to gain substantial commercial
benefits from exporting apples to Australia.
“This puts Australia‟s competitive advantage at risk. Australia has given up on its right to
control its own borders. BA has accepted New Zealand‟s Integrated Fruit Production
program (standard orchard practices) as a quarantine standard,” Mr Ashton said.
“This has given control of Australia‟s pest and disease management to New Zealand growers
even though they have the devastating bacterial disease fire blight - one of the worst fruit
tree diseases in the world - along with a number of damaging insect pests,” Mr Ashton said.
“I think the Minister for Agriculture should put on his Australian hat and seek independent
advice on what our growers see as „the BA surrender‟.
“Also the coming Estimates Committee hearings and the June visit to New Zealand by the
Senate Standing Committee on Rural Affairs and Transport will provide an opportunity for
the BA recommendations to be subjected to scrutiny by Australian politicians,” Mr Ashton
“I urge the Minister to closely follow the proceedings of these various committees and to
heed the messages which will come through from our growers, the industry and the
communities that rely on them.”
Mr Ashton said he was disturbed by many aspects of the report.
“We have no assurances of how the standards are applied, or that they are verified and
audited at the orchard and pack house level.
“Giving off-shore control of our Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP) to those who stand
to gain financially sets a disastrous world-wide precedent and all Australia‟s primary
industries should be greatly concerned at this development,” Mr Ashton said.
Chairman of the Fire Blight Task Force, John Corboy, said this process would not happen
anywhere else.
“I don‟t believe any other country, including New Zealand, would accept standard orchard
practices as a quarantine standard. If that were the case, our standard practices to control
fruit fly would be acceptable to all other countries and we would not have restrictions on
exporting any fruits from the Australian mainland,” Mr Corboy said.
“Even experts advising the WTO admitted there are genuine risks in the fire blight bacteria
going into a „hibernation‟ state called „viable but not culturable‟ and that fire blight
outbreaks can occur late in the season after hail events.
“We do not know if New Zealand orchardists have to notify authorities if they suffer an
outbreak of fire blight or other quarantinable pest and diseases not found in Australia. We
have no guarantee that apples picked from orchards dripping with fire blight or heavily
infested with quarantinable pests will be excluded from export to Australia.”
Mr Corboy said we should not be complacent about our pest and disease free status,
especially in respect to fire blight.
“Once established, fire blight has never been eradicated from any country. If it establishes
in Australia, which has more conducive condition for the disease than in New Zealand, we
can virtually say goodbye to the $150 million a year pear industry. The cost of apple
production will also increase,” Mr Corboy said.
The industry has 60 days to respond to the draft report. The Director of Quarantine will
make a final determination on 17 August 2011.
Media contacts
Darral Ashton Chairman, APAL mobile 0429 463 781
John Corboy, Chairman, Fire Blight Task Force, 0419 575 240
Jon Durham, Managing Director, APAL 0417 568 552
APAL office
Stuart Gray, Communications Manager 0407 816 413