Over the last few weeks we have been inundated with the news of fruit fly larvae and adult specimens finding their way into our fresh Tassie produce. The fruit fly larvae were first detected in a backyard apricot tree in the area of Spreyton; as a result, a strict 15km radius control zone was immediately implemented. This means any produce grown within this radius cannot be moved out of that area, causing potentially devastating repercussions for our local farmers. A total of 18 fruit fly adults have been found in Tasmania and another 15 have been found on Flinders Island, making the whole area of Flinders a control zone.
So what does this mean for our local farmers? Bio-security Tasmania laws state that all produce grown within the control zone must either be fumigated with methyl bromide or kept in cold storage at 3 degrees Celsius for 15-16 days before it can be moved out of the control zone. Unfortunately, some farmers are not in the position to be able to fumigate their stock, leaving cold storage the only option. However, cold storage also creates problems of its own as Turner’s Beach tomato farmer, Marcus Brandsema stated; his tomatoes would continue to ripen whilst they were kept in cold storage, so once they were ready to export they would be overripe. This left him with no option but to dump over a tonne of produce, leaving him with a significant financial loss. Many other farmers in our area are faced with the same or a similar situation. Tasmania has always prided itself on our fruit fly free reputation for many years, making our produce stand out from the rest, however our exports have also taken a hit with Taiwan temporarily banning all Tasmanian imports from within the control zone.
Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel; Bio-security Tasmania has implemented not only the control zone but also a trap and eradicate plan to combat these fruit flies. In addition, the Hodgeman Liberal Government is working on a $2million support package to assist all produce growers, distributors and retailers. The $2million will go toward;
- Financial assistance for those within the control zone suffering significant financial hardship due to the Bio-security laws.
- Assistance with the cost of meeting the produce treatment requirements (i.e fumigation).
- Assistance with sourcing new mainland markets, fruit clean up/disposal and any changed that may be required for packaging
As well as introducing the assistance package, the Hodgeman Liberal Government and Bio-security Tasmania are also working closely the local produce farmers and the community to destroy the fruit fly outbreak. Us as a community have been commended for our incredibly vigilant efforts and our sense of community to work together to help everyone affected during this tough time.