Regional Highlight

Help keep our area fruit fly free

South Australia acts like an inland pest free island – the barrier between Mediterranean fruit fly in the West and Queensland fruit fly in the East. The Riverland is one of only two declared Pest Free Areas in Australia. In the other, Tasmania, an outbreak from infested fruit has wreaked havoc on their industry since January this year. RDA Murraylands and Riverland and Biosecurity SA have partnered to avoid such an economic blow and ensure business continuity for Riverland growers and packers.

Biosecurity SA ran a simulation event in May 2018 to test the industry’s response to a hypothetical outbreak. It became clear that packers and growers needed more assistance to navigate the complex response options and make sound commercial decisions.

RDA jumped in, proposing to help individual enterprises with their preparedness plans, and PIRSA backed the idea with matched funding. Ben Fee of Feezable Solutions was brought in to lead the project with a team from the RDA and Biosecurity SA.

“We have fantastic state policies, high performing industries, but how do you mesh them together across a regional scale? There’s no one else but RDA who can do that across council boundaries,” says Ben.

The team worked intensely with two packers and two growers from across the region in July, doing a comprehensive review of their business planning and risk management practices relating to fruit fly, and helping the businesses understand their response options.

“It’s like bushfire preparedness,” says Ben. “It’s smart to know what the possible scenarios are. We don’t know if it’s coming or not, but if it does, we’ll be ready.”

“What we developed is a pilot Preparedness Plan template that steps you through four simple actions – one, awareness of responsibilities and communication channels, two, knowing the market access rules for your buyers, three, timing of restrictions, and four, options for treatment if you find yourself in a restricted zone.”

Biosecurity SA is now developing more tools relevant to specific crop types and export markets. The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is also taking note, with this work set to influence federal policy on Pest Free Area management.

Says Ben, “our expertise is well recognised – we do things no one else does. We’re not a geographic island like Tasmania, but we are protected by our policies and practices. That’s why we’re so highly valued and why we have to be so vigilant.”

Pest Free Area status gives the Riverland a massive commercial advantage, providing access to some otherwise unobtainable markets and lower access cost to others, because you don’t have to treat your fruit before shipping.

Ben says “the biggest thing that came out of our interviews was that everyone understood and backed the value of the PFA. Growers and packers think Biosecurity SA is doing a fantastic job – but their own responsibilities were less clear.”

The pilot template is now available for further industry testing and refinement. Says Ben, “it’s a massive leap forward for biosecurity, but it needs to be reality checked and built into broader business planning and risk management.”

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“It’s smart to know what the possible scenarios are. We don’t know if it’s coming or not, but if it does, we’ll be ready.”

RDAMR
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