Strawberry grower Craig Morris is “very worried” about the zones remaining in place for so long. (ABC News: Carla Howarth)
The fruit fly control zones in Tasmania’s north will not be lifted until the end of the year at the earliest, according to Tasmania’s peak fruit growers body.
A 15-kilometre exclusion zone was established around Spreyton in Tasmania’s north-west after fruit fly larvae were discovered in a backyard apricot tree in January.
The zones around George Town and on Flinders Island remain in place with strict protocols for fruit and vegetable growers transporting their produce throughout the state.
The State Government said the control area restrictions would be maintained until Tasmania was declared fruit fly free.
Fruit Growers Tasmania president Nick Hansen said if everything goes to plan, the state’s fruit-fly-free status could be reinstated in December.
“Fruit fly at present is in a winter hiatus, in that there is no field work progressing because [of] the temperature and the conditions within the Tasmanian winter,” he said.
“Fruit cannot be moved out of the control zone even though we are in a winter hiatus period.”
Mr Hansen said the industry was not relying on winter to eradicate the fly.
“Programs will be in place in the spring to continue the ground work when temperatures start to increase,” he said.
“If everything went well in the spring, and obviously no detections were incurred within the control area, that re-instatement can be applied for to the Commonwealth Government.
“The earliest potentially is mid to late December, and this depends on many factors.”
Mr Hansen said Biosecurity Tasmania had no control over the reinstatement timeline.
“They can make an application for PFA, so Pest Free Status for Tasmania to be reinstated, but ultimately have no control, it’s a Commonwealth decision,” he said.
The Spreyton-centred 15-kilometre control zone has had to be extended to include George Town and surrounds. (Supplied: Biosecurity Tasmania)
‘Potential disaster’ for fruit growers
Turners Beach Berry Patch owner Craig Morris said if the control zones remained in place until the end of the year, it would have a devastating impact on his business.
“If it is it’ll be pretty disastrous for us, really, because normally November and December are really busy, big months so it’ll be a real loss if that happens,” he said.
“It’s been a testing time for us but, fortunately, we’ve still got the lights on.”
Mr Morris said it was hard to measure the monetary impact that fruit fly had had on his business.
“A big one we’re worried about now is our impact on the market,” he said.
“We’ve been establishing a pretty good market in the last 10 years and have always been a reliable supplier, and now this is happening.
“We’re very worried about what this is going to do for the long term of our business.”
In a statement, a spokesperson from the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment said the Commonwealth and trading partners had to come to an agreement to achieve the fruit-fly-free status.
“This means that Tasmania needs to maintain identified processes to give certainty to the Australian Government and our trading partners that we have eradicated fruit fly from the state,” the statement said.
“While the cooler winter weather is believed to be a barrier to fruit fly establishment in Tasmania, this alone cannot be relied on to achieve eradication so it is necessary to continue with control measures over coming months.
“This means that we will need to maintain the current control areas on Flinders Island and in northern Tasmania for the coming months until agreement is reached with the Commonwealth and trading partners that they can be lifted.”