Senator Boswell announced today that following a request by the Australian Ginger Industry Association, he will move a notice of motion in Parliament to refer to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee an inquiry into the risks and consequences of allowing the import of fresh ginger from Fiji.
“Ginger is the latest agricultural crop that would be threatened by the introduction of pests or diseases from overseas imports, with the Australian pineapple and the potato industries also at risk,” Senator Boswell said.
“The Inquiry will look closely at Biosecurity Australia’s provisional final import risk analysis report for fresh ginger from Fiji and will give ginger growers the opportunity to provide evidence on the public record.”
The provisional final import risk analysis was released by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on August 13, and identified yam scale and Radopholus similis (burrowing nematode) as biosecurity risks that Fijian exporters must manage.
The Australian Ginger Industry Association has raised a number of concerns regarding the adequacy of DAFF’s pest risk management controls in preventing the threat of burrowing nematode.
The industry believes that the controls proposed by Biosecurity Australia do not go far enough. They argue that the use of clean seed certified as nematode-free or seed dipped in hot water at 51 degrees celsius for ten minutes and crop rotation will not be effective in combating burrowing nematode.
Australian ginger growers have also taken objection to methyl bromide fumigation either in Fiji or on arrival in Australia being optional. They maintain that without methyl bromide treatment, burrowing nematode will enter Australia.
Ginger is a crop that is easily replanted and this presents the potential for other soil-borne diseases to be introduced in imported ginger rhizomes. The Government has indicated this is a low risk because imported ginger is for immediate consumption. However, it is difficult to predict how much of the imported product is likely to be planted by home gardeners.
Ginger growers insist the threat of burrowing nematode and yam scale is too great, and that methyl bromide fumigation must be compulsory on all imported ginger.
“We cannot risk the future viability of our agricultural industries and that is why a Senate inquiry must be held to examine the risks associated with allowing fresh ginger into Australia. Once diseases are introduced from overseas, they are extremely difficult to eradicate and can have devastating economic consequences.” Senator Boswell said.
The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee’s report into the effect on Australian pineapple growers of importing fresh pineapple from Malaysia is due on October 10, 2012.