Kiwifruit under threat from disease

November 8, 2010

The government has reacted swiftly to notification of a disease which could threaten the $1.5 billion kiwifruit industry.

Biosecurity Minister David Carter is reassuring kiwifruit growers that the Government is treating a newly discovered vine infection on a North Island kiwifruit orchard very seriously, and is making all necessary resources available.

“Swift action is underway to confirm whether the vine infection is Psa, a bacterial kiwifruit vine disease.  MAF Biosecurity New Zealand is working closely with ZESPRI, Plant & Food Research and New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc.

“We are confident that robust testing will quickly determine the next steps.

“This potential risk to our kiwifruit industry is being taken seriously.  While the strain of the disease is not yet known, all necessary precautions have been put in place on the orchard to avoid the disease spreading. 

“It is imperative that a considered and responsible approach to this potential threat is taken by all primary sector stakeholders while the kiwifruit industry and Government works out exactly what we are dealing with,” says Mr Carter.     

MAF Biosecurity  said precautions have been taken to mitigate any risk the disease will spread while they wait test results to identify the infection.

All parties are taking the suspected threat seriously and are acting quickly to minimise the risk. If Psa is confirmed, MAFBNZ will work with ZESPRI and NZKGI to implement an agreed action plan.

In the meantime ZESPRI is working with the industry to advise of the current situation, understand how widespread the issue may be and encourage best practice orchard hygiene.

Psa carries no risks associated with human or animal health, and does not affect plants other than kiwifruit vines. This is about the health of the vines, not the health of the fruit.

Being an island insulates us to some extent from biosecurity risks. But it takes only one person carrying something infected into the country to put our plants or animals at risk.

This is why the screening at airports is so strict although not everyone appreciates the need for it.

We were at an agri-business dinner when the discussion turned to immigration procedures. One of the bankers at our table said he never declared he’d been on a farm even if he had because he didn’t want to be delayed.

The immediate and heated reaction from the farmers left him in no doubt over the the stupidity of doing that.

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