PINEAPPLE growers are maintaining the pressure on policy makers over the importation of Malaysian pineapple.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce met with chair of Australian Pineapples Chris Fullerton and Tropical Pines executive Derek Lightfoot in Canberra last week to repeat their cause for concerns regarding disease threats from the imported fruit.

Rockhampton-based Senator Matt Canavan and member for Capricornia Michelle Landry also attended the meeting.

The Malaysian industry is plagued with the devastating Erwinia Chrysanthemi – an internal ‘rot’ disease.

In 2012, the then Federal Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry recommended allowing the importation of fresh decrowned pineapple fruit from all commercial production areas of Malaysia, subject to a range of quarantine conditions.

Australia already allows the importation of fresh pineapple from Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Solomon Islands, subject to a range of phytosanitary measures.

But the risk of importing the disease is still too great, according to growers.

Mr Fullerton said the recent meeting showed the dialogue was still open although progress was slow.

“We continue to agree to disagree on certain issues,” he said.

Mr Fullerton said some of the chief biosecurity scientists within the Department that attended the meeting were asked to look into getting some answers posed by the industry.

“But one of the things we wanted to make clear is that we’re not going away. We’re going to go pretty hard on this because we think we have some pretty strong ground to stand on.”

Part of the confidence stems from the release of a Senate report last year into the Department of Agriculture’s Import Risk Analyses (IRA) process around pineapples, ginger and potatoes.

The report recommended that “before commencing the importation of fresh pineapples from Malaysia, the Department of Agriculture should establish to a much greater degree of certainty the degree of post-harvest latency of pineapple fruit collapse and heart rot.

It specifically called for the Department to review its assessment of the probability of importation and distribution of Erwinia Chrysanthemi.

The Rockhampton-based Ms Landry has become an advocate for the pineapple industry.

She said the disease could decimate the industry should it find its way here. Queensland produces $80 million worth of fresh pines a year.

“The meeting allowed the Minister and our pine industry to question Australia’s top scientists over the bureaucratic reasons as to why we would even think about bringing in Malaysian pineapples and how great the risk of disease might to us here,” Ms Landry said.

“The meeting in Parliament House was important for our growers and I am continuing to lobby against the potential import of Malaysian fresh pineapples.

“The Minister listened carefully to the issues and has asked the scientists to do some more homework on the risks and to also look closely into what occurred in Hawaii where the disease was imported there inside foreign pines.”

Mr Fullerton thanked Mr Joyce and Senator Canavan for taking time for the meeting.

He also encouraged farmers and industry bodies of other crops, such as corn, to take notice of the developments, particularly in light of Hawaiian research which he said showed the disease could be soil-borne and infect other crops.

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