THE Australian vegetable industry has launched a campaign ridiculing the Federal Government over its failure to block potato imports from New Zealand.
Industry body AUSVEG said the move put almost $1.5billion of agricultural production at risk from the Tomato-potato Psyllid, a destructive insect it said was wreaking havoc in New Zealand.
A video released by AUSVEG depicts the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig and Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, as children playing Space Invaders against New Zealand potatoes before moving the camera back to show two distraught parents devastated over what looks like the end of their industry and their family potato business.
AUSVEG public affairs manager, William Churchill, said the government was treating an industry worth $10billion like a game.
"We want our representatives in Canberra, consumers and farmers alike to hear this important message," he said said.
Mr Churchill said that last year apples from New Zealand were permitted to be imported into Australia despite scientific objection from apple and pear growers and industry on biosecurity grounds.
He said the potato, tomato, vegetable, ginger, pineapple, apple and pear industries have all lodged objections to the lack of scientific rigour applied to imports of fresh produce from other countries, with many citing the selective nature of the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) Biosecurity's Import Risk Analyses (IRAs).
"The potato industry has lodged its objections with DAFF and cited new research that demonstrates the department's fundamental understanding of the Tomato-potato Psyllid is flawed and the documents they rely on so heavily are now obsolete," he said.
"The Federal Government must intervene on this issue both to block imported potatoes from New Zealand and to answer the questions surrounding the process DAFF employs when conducting IRAs."
AUSVEG said the Tomato-potato Psyllid could feed off Solanaceous crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums, cucumber and eggplant, which represent almost $1.5billion of agricultural production. Potatoes and tomatoes are two of the top three most popular vegetables in the country.
The deadline for scientific submissions to DAFF closed on Monday September 3.
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