THE pineapple industry is in limbo while a Senate inquiry considers whether Malaysian pineapples should be imported into Australia.
The concern is that with them will come the disease Dickeya sp, the symptoms of which include bacterial heart rot and fruit collapse.
Tropical Pines agronomist Col Scott said the bacteria had caused crop losses of up to 40% in Malaysia and 60% in small areas of Hawaii.
That's why they're coming up with these same assessments for ginger and potatoes and all decisions they're making - this is a very dangerous thing for all farmers.
"Our industry is not that big and if we were to sustain 30-40% losses it would spell the end of the industry. Our growers couldn't sustain those kinds of losses at all," he said.
They have garnered support from Queensland Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh and Nationals Senator for Queensland Ron Boswell, both avid opponents of the imports.
Tropical Pineapples managing director Derek Lightfoot said the move had the potential to cripple the industry, as it was undetectable in latent form and there were no methods of eradication. He also questioned Biosecurity Australia's risk assessment matrix.
"Biosecurity Queensland in the Senate inquiry said they consider this to be a high risk and Biosecurity Australia said this is a low risk," Mr Lightfoot said.
"When I looked into the method of Biosecurity Australia, it became obvious to me how they could come up with a risk assessment of very low and the reason is that the risk matrix is heavily biased to that - and I've never seen anything like it before. That's why their coming up with these same assessments for ginger and potatoes and all decisions they're making - this is a very dangerous thing for all farmers."
A departmental spokesperson denied claims of bias in the matrix, saying it had been in use since 2001. "The method we used to assess risk is consistent with the World Trade Organisation's conservative standards," they said.
"Thanks to our tough biosecurity measures, there have been no issues with imports of these and other plant commodities.
"Quarantine measures include the removal of the crown and basal leaves in the packing process, as well as removal of any soil.
"Pre-shipment or on-arrival methyl bromide fumigation for mealybugs is required or an alternative post-harvest treatment will be required."
However, Mr Scott said fumigation would not kill Dickeya sp in its latent form.
The results of the Senate inquiry will be released next Thursday.
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