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Fighting to protect Qld pineapple and ginger farms from disease (June 2012)

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh and Environment and Heritage Protection Minister Andrew Powell have vowed to stand up to Canberra over its plans to allow fresh imports of Malaysian pineapples and Fijian ginger.

Both Ministers met with pineapple growers and agronomists at Beerwah in the Glasshouse Mountains this morning to discuss concerns with the Federal Government’s release of Import Risk Analysis (IRA) reports on pineapples and ginger.

“Queensland has been Australia’s major pineapple producer for a century. Allowing these imports could devastate the industry by allowing in exotic diseases like bacterial heart rot and fruit collapse,” Mr McVeigh said.

“We must ensure our pineapple industry is not threatened by diseases from imported pineapples.

The Newman Government is determined to do everything it can to achieve the goal of doubling food production by 2040. The very last thing we need is to risk our industries by b lindly ignoring disease threats in pursuit of crazy, open-door trade policies.

“I’m calling on Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to do what he was elected to do – help ensure the future of agriculture in Australia. We have no iron-clad guarantee that our pineapple industry will be safe by allowing in fresh Malaysian pineapples.

If the worst happens, like it has in Hawaii, crop losses would be huge and local jobs will be lost.”

Growcom Pineapple Industry Development Officer Cherie Gambley said bacterial fruit collapse was a devastating disease affecting pineapples across Malaysia.

“This disease is undetectable in its latent phase and currently untreatable. It is inevitable that it will be introduced to Australia if pineapples are imported from Malaysia.

If it establishes in Australia, it will be highly damaging to our iconic pineapple industry,” Ms Gambley said.

Mr Powell said pineapple growers were a key part of the regio n’s history and future.

“This industry is worth $80 million annually and underpins 1000 jobs on farms and in the supply chain in Queensland during the peak season,” he said.

“The farmers don’t want their livelihoods jeopardised for no apparent reason other than Federal Labor’s pushing of its Free Trade Agreements at all costs. It’s not good enough.”

Mr McVeigh commended Queensland Senator Ron Boswell for referring the matter to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee.

“I will also be fighting Canberra’s proposal to allow fresh ginger imports from Fiji which risked further bacterial diseases along with contaminated soil,” Mr McVeigh said.

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