USA EXPORTS AT RISK : Fruit fly outbreak in east Kimberley puts Western Australia (WA) mango industry at risk
WA Country Hour By Tom Edwards
Updated about 8 hours ago
PHOTO: An outbreak of Medfly in the East Kimberley could potentially jeopardise WA's mango trade to interstate and overseas markets. (DAFWA)
MAP: Kununurra 6743
Western Australia's mango trade is at risk after Mediterranean fruit flies were discovered at three east Kimberley caravan parks.
Six male fruit flies were detected in traps at three Kununurra caravan parks, triggering a 15-kilometre restriction zone around farms in the Ord River Irrigation Area.
00:00 AUDIO: East Kimberley fruit fly outbreak puts WA mango trade at risk. (ABC Rural)
If the fruit flies are not eradicated by late September, it could seriously affect the export of mangoes overseas and interstate, although the Perth market would be unaffected, as the fruit flies are already endemic in southern Westen Australia.
Department of Agriculture and Food plant biosecurity director John van Schagen said the fruit fly outbreak could potentially impact WA's mango trade.
"There's a national code of practice, which is an agreement between all the states, that once there's an outbreak in an area any produce exported from that, any host material, requires treatment so that impacts on the local industry," he said.
"We're negotiating with the other states and the Commonwealth Government in relation to overseas exports."
In WA, Medfly attack all citrus, except some lemons, and thin-skinned stone fruit such as apricots, nectarines, and peaches.
Persimmons, pears, apples and mangoes are particularly susceptible.
"I think mangoes will be coming in the market in September or October. That's another two or three months away, so hopefully we can get on top of the problem," Mr. van Schagen said.
"It takes about 12 weeks since the last fruit fly detection to be able to reinstate area freedom."
The department is formulating a management plan with stakeholders and the response is likely to be an eight-week baiting program in the outbreak area.
There are about 100 sites, containing some 240 traps, throughout the Ord Valley, which are checked regularly by DAFWA staff.
"We have installed additional traps in a 200-metre radius from the other detection sites and we're just monitoring the situation that way," Mr. van Schagen said.
"We've also looked at fruit in the area, but so far we haven't found any evidence of an established population, so we haven't found any female flies or any larvae.
"It's just the males that we've trapped and that suggests we could be dealing with just emerging flies, but we have to monitor very closely just to make sure those flies don't start breeding with any emerging female flies and start a population."
While quarantine road signs and disposal bins were in place along Victoria Highway, Mr. van Schagen said the flies were probably transported by tourists traveling north for winter.
"Tourists should be aware that by traveling great distances with fruit they could potentially be transporting fruit flies," he said.
"There are penalties for offenders, but it's a very difficult thing to police. We'd really have to install road-blocks and things like that, so it's a very expensive exercise."
At a meeting on Wednesday night, the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley voted to make $10,000 immediately available for a fruit fly baiting program.
Shire president John Moulden said the decision reflected how seriously the council viewed the situation.
"We've put in $10,000 now and if the department matches every dollar, dollar for dollar, we will put in another $10,000," he said.
"There's a possibility we might be looking at $40,000, but if we can't come to an agreement in the next week or so, then the deal's off."